The bigger the stage, the better Hanford’s Ben Kelly and Dallon Grinder shine.
The seniors will get one more chance to compete at the state level this weekend at the Class 3A track and field championships in Tacoma today through Saturday.
Kelly advanced in the 100 and 200 meters, long jump and 4x400 relay. Grinder is through in the shot put and discus. And both could easily win multiple state titles.
“They both know when it is time to compete,” Hanford coach Darren Crow said. “They are there to be the best and when they leave, they want to be the best. They don’t want to lose to anybody.”
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Neither has done much losing this season.
Kelly has the fastest 200-meter time in the state and one of the best 100 times. He has been coming on strong in the long jump, and ran a sizzling anchor in the mile relay to win the regional title.
Grinder popped a couple of big throws midway through the season and has been trying to best the marks since then, winning plenty of gold medals along the way.
With two stars up top, the Falcons have also been extremely successful as a team this year. They went undefeated in league duals, won the district and regional titles, the Pasco Invite, and now have a great shot at the first team state title in program history this week.
“I like the team success way better than the individual,” Kelly said. “Undefeated, district title, seeing how happy my teammates were — I’m proud of it.”
Added Grinder: “It’s a good feeling, knowing that we made Hanford history. Winning the Pasco Invite, going undefeated all year, having a chance to win state — it’s a good feeling knowing that I was able to help do that.”
Kelly has always been fast, but natural ability will only take you so far. His offseason work is what has separated him from the pack this year, helping him run a 10.69 in the 100 and the state-leading 21.5 in the 200.
“Championships are made in the offseason,” Crow said. “I think in Ben’s case, that hits the nail on the head. He is willing to do the work in the offseason to hone his skills as a sprinter.
“His work ethic really changed after he realized last year at state that he could be that good.”
Kelly decided not to go out for basketball this winter, instead working on conditioning and improving his starts in the 100s. He also competed at indoor meets throughout the Northwest to stay sharp.
Going up against Ephrata speedster Jonathan Green at the Davis Invite on April 12, though, is when Kelly realized his true potential.
“I beat him in the 100 and 200,” Kelly said. “After that, I knew I could definitely be a state champion. That is my goal. That is the only thing I want to accomplish.”
Kelly definitely has a shot. He won four regional titles and while he will have stiff competition this weekend, such as Bellevue’s Budda Baker and Marysville-Pilchuck’s Austin Joyner, Kelly is confident he can win.
“It would be like a weight lifted off my shoulders,” he said. “It has been a little stressful the whole season. If I could actually get it done, it would be incredible. I’d definitely be pretty excited.”
And if Kelly is successful in bringing home some hardware, that would mean a team title is likely in the offing as well.
“That is honestly our main goal,” Kelly said. “This is one of the best track teams that we’ve ever had. We know we have the athletes to do it.”
And that starts with Kelly and Grinder.
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; firstname.lastname@example.org