This year's Herald All-Area track and field MVPs literally sprinted away with the awards.
Prosser senior Cade Wandling and Kiona-Benton junior Whitney Leavitt were two of the fastest sprinters in the state this year, each earning Outstanding Athlete of the Meet honors at the Pasco Invite and later combining to win three individual and a relay state title at the 2A/1A championships last month in Tacoma.
Wandling's individual title came not in the 100 meters, the event he won last year, but in the 400, which he didn't begin to take seriously until this year. He also anchored the 4x100 relay team to a second straight title and placed third in the 200.
"This is kind of unexpected," Wandling said while on vacation in Idaho after graduating last week. "It's nice to go through your high school career and finish it off with something like this. It's a good way to top things off."
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Tri-City Herald
Leavitt, meanwhile, repeated as 1A girls champion in the 100 and 200, but this year in times that show she is on the verge of becoming one of the state's elite sprinters.
"This means a lot to me," she said. "I'm really excited about it."
Prosser boys coach Scott Yetter and Richland girls coach Jim Qualheim were named the All-Area coaches of the year.
Wandling's chances at repeating in the 100 died when he false-started at the CWAC subdistrict meet on his home track, with his father Jim one of the starters -- although he wasn't the person who made the call.
"I turned around after it, and I looked at my dad, and he just nodded his head," Wandling said. "It still angers me. I watched it on film, and it was really close, but I did false start."
Wandling channeled that anger into the 400, an event he picked up mostly because his speed training was curtailed in the offseason by hamstring injuries suffered during Prosser's state football championship run.
"I never could get my speed training done in the offseason, so I did a lot of stamina work," he said.
It paid off from the start. He ran under 50 seconds in his first race of the year and steadily improved until he won the 2A title in a meet-record 48.38, the second-fastest time in Mid-Columbia history.
"I wanted to win the 100, 200 and 400 at state," said Wandling, who has narrowed his college choices down but is waiting to hear from the coaches before announcing his decision. "The 100, obviously I couldn't. And the 200, I can't be too mad because I was so happy about winning the 400."
Leavitt's big break came at the Pasco Invite in mid-April, when she won the 100 against a field that included 3A state champion Morgan Clem of Eastmont and Bellarmine's Brianna Okoro, who place third at 4A state.
"Pasco is even harder than state," Leavitt said. "That was the first race where I actually ran loose. It taught me how to run the 100 better for state."
She ran a wind-aided 12.05 in the 100 prelims at state and won in a wind-aided 12.11.
However, her best legal mark of the year, 12.13, ranks sixth on the all-time area list.
Then in the 200, she ran a wind-aided 24.78 in the prelims and matched that time with a legal wind in the final, moving her into fourth on the all-time area list. She also anchored the 4x200 to a third-place finish and placed second in the high jump.
She's taking the summer off from track to rest aching shin splints and is playing in a volleyball league.
"My year went better than how I thought it would," said Leavitt, who already is drawing interest from Washington and Washington State, where her brother Barry is a champion hurdler.
"My freshman and sophomore years, I won state, but without my best times. This year, my times improved by a lot, and I PR'd at state. I ended the season really well."
2007: Keefe Brockman, Hanford, and Courtney Kirkwood, Othello
2006: Kyle Schauble, Kamiakin, and Kayla McKeirnan, Richland
2005: Nectaly Barbosa, Prosser, and Carly Mauch, Pasco
2004: Tyler Watts, Kiona-Benton, and Isley Gonzalez, Sunnyside
2003: Barry Leavitt, Kiona-Benton, and McKenzie Burgess, Ki-Be