Joe Gauthier is the fastest man in Washington. He proved that with a time of 10.46 seconds in winning the 4A state title in the 100 meters May 27.
But what’s fueling his engine at times is surprising.
“Twinkies or my grandma’s brownies,” he said. “They call your name and you have to eat them.”
The sugary sweets didn’t slow the Hanford senior down at all this spring. He set school records in the 100 and 200, and was part of the record-settting 4x100 relay team, earning him the Tri-City Herald’s All-Area Boys Track and Field Athlete of the Year award.
“I didn’t even know it was a thing,” he said. “I can’t believe I actually got it.”
Kamiakin senior Mirannda Shulman won the girls honor, dominating in the 400 meters, competing in the 200 and anchoring the 4x100 and 4x200 relays — the latter of which placed second at the 3A state track meet.
“I wouldn’t expect me at all,” she said. “I don’t think of myself like that. I am really honored.”
Kamiakin coach Cheryl Schauble said Shulman put in the work and the award reflects that.
“She is just a spitfire — tough as nails,” Schauble said. “She’s just a little tiny thing and works her tail off. We are going to miss her terribly.”
No ordinary Joe
Gauthier could have let the death of his best friend, Gavin Slack, drag him down his junior year, but he channeled the spirit of his friend every time he stepped on the track.
He was the top 100 and 200 runner in the Mid-Columbia Conference for the second year in a row, and this spring he erased Ben Kelly’s school records in both distances, not to mention helping the 4x100 relay team set a new school mark.
“He has matured so much,” said Hanford coach Darren Crow, who was named the girls coach of the year. “When a freshman sprinter comes in behind a kid like Ben Kelly, it gives him something to strive for. He is there to compete. You don’t get a kid like him very often. Every day he gets in those blocks he is going to work and he is going to compete.
“When he was a freshman and sophomore, his cockiness got the better of him at times. But since his best friend died, he is a different person. He made the decision to be a better person. Joe expanded and rose instead of contracting and falling.”
Gauthier knocked Kelly off the 100 leaderboard earlier this spring with a 10.61 time at the Pasco Invite. The relay team posted a 42.79 at regionals to break the previous record of 42.90, set in 2015 by a team that featured both Gauthier and Slack.
But Kelly’s 200 record of 21.50 had eluded Gauthier all season until the state finals. Gauthier finished second, but his time of 21.43 moved him to the top of the list.
“It’s definitely a good feeling,” Gauthier said. “It’s your last race, you give it your all and you bust out a school record.”
Crow said none of Gauthier’s achievements would have come to light without his hard work.
“He worked his butt off to achieve his goals,” Crow said. “There aren’t too many of us who can say that.”
The key to the 100, according to Gauthier, is his start. Pure speed and instinct.
“I work on starts more than most people,” he said. “My first 60 meters is good, but my last 40 definitely needs to get faster.”
And while he has blazing speed in both sprints, he’s hoping to improve his 200 once he gets to Eastern Washington — especially the final 40 meters.
“I really hope they can help me with that,” he said. “You go there hoping they will make you better. It’s going to be really exciting to see how I can improve the next four or five years in college.”
Gauthier would like to participate in the Junior Olympics this summer, and would like to try out for nationals.
A jewel in Kamiakin’s dynasty
School records in track are hard to come by at Kamiakin. Ellie Heiden (12 gold medals, 16 overall) set the bar high, but that doesn’t take the shine off the performances of those who have followed.
Shulman ran a 57.93 to place third at state in the 400 meters. She also ran the anchor leg of the 4x200 relay team that ran a season best 1:43.21 (ninth all-time on the school’s leaderboard) and placed second. The 4x100 relay was looking at a high podium finish until the final hand-off went awry and the Braves finished last.
“Don’t make her mad,” Schauble said. “They dropped the baton in the 4x100 and she had about 30 minutes to compose herself to run the 400. She took it out on the 400 and she finished third.”
Before the baton drop, the 4x100 relay turned in a time of 49.27 in the prelims, which also ranks ninth in the record books.
“I felt super blessed to be part of such a talented team,” said Shulman, who is headed to Portland State University to run track. “To be on the first-place team (at state) a couple of years ago, and to come back year after year. Most people don’t get to experience that. I’m fortunate my high school career was built around a lot of success.”
Coming out of middle school, Shulman headed to Kamiakin while her twin brother, Tristan, went to Southridge. While she runs cross country and track, he plays lacrosse.
“He followed his friends over there,” Shulman said. “We may be twins, but we are complete opposites. We have been stuck at the hip since we were born. Going to different schools we have grown up and become different people.”
Sports helped Shulman fit in at Kamiakin, and to grow as a person.
“You do so much growing between your freshman year and your senior year,” she said. “I didn’t know a lot of kids coming in, it puts you out there and you make friends. You find your place. It helped me a lot and brought me the friends I have. My friends have come through the sports I have done. You can never have too many friends.”
And that closeness has created success on the track, where the Kamiakin sprint relay teams have had tremendous success. This year, Shulman was the leader of the group, which featured sophomores Izzy Conover, Katie Petsch and Britney Donais.
“I’m really impressed with all of the sophomore babies,” she said. “They really stepped it up. Not a lot of girls can do that as sophomores. I’m excited to see how good they will be when they are my age.”
Leaders of the pack
Crow, who grew up in Richland and went through the Hanford School District, came back to his roots in 2002. He runs the boys and girls programs — with help from a good corp of assistants.
Two of his top girls — hurdlers Lele Williams and Nyenuchi Okemgbo — are a handful and competitive; and rack up the points.
“I keep telling them to be thankful they are on the same team and taking points away from other schools,” Crow said.
The two also ran legs on the 4x400 relay, which posted the first sub-4 minute time (3:59.59) in school history.
They are stars helping their team, which also includes Kara Shibley, the top shot put thrower in the MCC who reached the state podium for the third year in a row.
The Falcons won their fair share of MCC meets, were second at the Ram Relays and Blue Devil Legends Invite, third at the Pasco Invite and tied with Richland for the 4A district title with 208 points.
Kennewick’s Ty Cronenwett was named the boys coach of the year after the Lions’ most successful season in recent memory.
“This is my fifth year as head coach and it has been amazing to watch these kids do what they they did this year,” Cronenwett said. “They were amazing.”
The Lions had 87 boys turn our for track, and 76 of them stuck with it the entire season. “That is an awesome retention rate,” Cronenwett said.
Athletes like Johan Correa, Keyshawn Owens, Ronny Loomis, Austin Albertin and Brendon Villasenor have brought excitement back to Kennewick track.
“The 4x400 relay, it’s super exciting to watch those guys run,” Cronenwett said. “Keyshawn has really improved in the long jump, and Brendon set a PR (in the shot put) going into regionals. It has been a Disney movie all season long.”
When the Lions beat Pasco last year, it was the first time in 10 years Kennewick had won a league meet. The success has continued this spring.
“When we beat Walla Walla by one point, we were beside ourselves,” Cronenwett said. “I was so excited for my kids. We beat Kamiakin at district and at state. Kennewick hasn’t beaten Kamiakin in 20 years. The best part is when you hear kids who aren’t on the track team saying ‘did you hear how fast Johan ran the 800?’ ”
All-Area Track and Field
100/200: Joe Gauthier, sr., Hanford; 400: Tyler Kurtz, sr., Richland; 800: Johan Correa, so., Kennewick; 1,600: Kenneth Rooks, jr., College Place; 3,200: Ryan Child, so., Kamiakin; 110H/300H: Germain Barnes, jr., Chiawana; Shot: Brigham Whitby, sr., Richland; Discus: Scott Blakney, sr., Prosser; Jav: Jax Lee, jr., Richland; HJ: Mitch Jacobson, sr., Walla Walla; PV: William Harshaw-McDonald, sr., Richland; LJ/TJ: Dominic Lee, sr., Chiawana.
100: Jaidyn Alexander, jr., Pasco; 200: Katie Petsch, so., Kamiakin; 400: Mirannda Shulman, sr., Kamiakin; 800: Brooke Hansen, sr., Southridge; 1,600: Katie Andrus, jr., Richland; 3,200: Emily Adams, sr., Waitsburg; 100H: Nyenuchi Okemgbo, so., Hanford; 300H: Lele Williams, jr., Hanford; Shot: Kara Shibley, sr., Hanford; Discus: Skylar Druffel, jr., Walla Walla; Jav: Ashton Riner, sr., Connell; HJ: Monica Kaylor, jr., Kennewick; PV: Hally Ruff, jr., Walla Walla; LJ/TJ: Allison Stapleton, sr., Kamiakin.
100: Germain Barnes, jr., Chiawana; 200: Gabriel Schilz, fr., Chiawana; 400: Caleb Price, sr., Connell; 800: Kenneth Rooks, jr., College Place; 1,600: Riley Moore, so., Richland; 3,200: Jonah Franco, jr., Kamiakin; 110H: Ethan Ellsworth, sr., Southridge; 300H: Beau Franklin, so., Hanford; Shot/Discus: Seer Deines, jr., Connell; Jav: Nate Brown, sr., Prosser; HJ: Oliver Davis, fr., Prosser; PV: Ricardo Abarca, jr., Grandview; LJ: Keyshawn Owens, sr., Kennewick; TJ: Mitch Jacobson, sr., Walla Walla.
100: Katie Petsch, so., Kamiakin; 200: Jaidyn Alexander, jr., Pasco; 400/800: Geraldin Correa-Cambino, fr., Kennewick; 1,600: McKinzi Teeples, so., Kamiakin; 3,200: Katie Andrus, jr., Richland; 100H: Allicia Chalmers, sr., Richland; 300H: Nyenuchi Okemgbo, so., Hanford; Shot: Maddie Mauia, so., Richland; Discus: Chanceler Williams, jr., Kamiakin; Jav: Morgan Munson, jr., River View; HJ: Noelani Helm, so., Walla Walla; PV: Maggie Delay, sr., Royal; LJ: Nyenuchi Okemgbo, so., Hanford; TJ: McCall Redden, jr., Richland.