TACOMA —Ellie Heiden’s hopes for winning the most gold medals of any big school girls athlete in state history were thwarted during her first race Saturday in the 4x200-meter relay.
Rather than let that loss and another in the 100 eat at her and derail her final Class 3A state track and field meet, the Kamiakin star went and won the 200 and 400 at Mt. Tahoma High.
“I don’t think it was ever like, ‘I want to be the best, most decorated athlete,’ ” she said. “It was, I want to do my best and wherever that gets me, that gets me.
“Maybe I’m not the most decorated athlete, but I hope people will remember me for who I am and not the medals that I have.”
Heiden finishes her star-studded career with 12 gold medals and 16 medals overall. She sits second among big school athletes in terms of gold medals, only behind Cleveland’s Cheryl Taplin who had 13 from 1987-90. Taplin went on to a Hall of Fame career at Louisiana State University. Heiden will head to Brigham Young University in the fall with plans to star there.
“Looking back, all I can be is grateful,” she said. “Grateful for the experience I have had and the lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve gotten to meet.”
Her final state championship Saturday got off to a rough start. Her relay teammates – Lindsey Schauble, Erin Leseberg and Samantha Raines – combined to run a personal best time, but it still left Kamiakin in sixth when Heiden got the baton.
She was jostled a bit right away and eventually had to sidestep through a crowded field on the final turn before racing into the home stretch.
“That moment, I was so glad I played soccer,” she said. “I knew I can take a couple of hits from people and it didn’t bother me as much. I took it all in stride. In soccer, you don’t just get bumped, you get shoved.”
Heiden nearly rallied the Braves, running a 24-second split and nearly chasing down Mt. Spokane’s Ashlee Pedersen in the final meters.
“She didn’t lean,” Heiden said. “When I leaned, I was just going to make it as close as I can and make the judges decide. Ashlee ran a phenomenal leg. I just wish that race was a little bit longer.”
Heiden then took third place in the 100, as a false start got into her head and she didn’t have her best race. Two races, two losses and no gold-medal records headed her way.
“I wasn’t even upset about my two losses,” she said. “Probably everyone thinks I should be upset, but that was my best.”
Heiden bounced back in her signature race in the 400, winning in 54.93 seconds without a challenge. She then capped her day with a personal best 24.66 in the 200 to end her career standing on top of the podium for the 12th time.
“In no way has my career been just about me,” she said. “It’s been me and all the people pushing me.”
w Craig Craker: 582-1509; email@example.com