High School Sports

PREVIEW: Mid-Columbia returners to watch

The biggest change in the Mid-Columbia track world this spring is the loss of the 4A/3A state championships back to the westside.

Mount Tahoma High in Tacoma will hold the 4A, 3A and 2A meets in a three-day format in late May, while the 1A, 2B and 1B meets will be held at Eastern Washington University.

The Pasco Invite will be held April 18 at Edgar Brown Stadium.

Here’s a look at some of the top returnees:


Richland senior Steven Piippo, who signed with Boise State in February, was the only CBBN boy (4A or 3A) to qualify for state in the short sprints last May. Hanford’s Josh Bland and Walla Walla’s Jordan Ness, both seniors, made it in the 400. Royal senior Blair Collins was runner-up at 1A state in the 100.

The best of a deep group of area girls resides in Benton City, where EWU-bound senior Whitney Leavitt of Kiona-Benton is the reigning All-Area MVP with six state titles to her resumé. Also back are all four members of Southridge’s state champion 4x200 team, as well as Pasco senior Yesenia Ortiz, the 4A district champion in the 100 and 400.


Hanford junior Joe Clements and Walla Walla senior Kyle Eaton qualified for state a year ago in the high hurdles, while in the small-school ranks, Waitsburg-Prescott senior Morgan Baker had the area’s fastest time in the 300 hurdles and placed at state in both hurdles races.

The Richland girls’ hurdling tradition will be carried on by junior Martha Sanford and sophomore Melanie Valdez. They’ll face competition from Southridge junior Chelsea Bourque and Kamiakin senior Elise Jepsen. Ki-Be senior Katharine Lotze, also a top triple jumper, signed with CWU last month.


Pasco senior Peter Gilbert, runner-up at state a year ago in the 800, and Southridge senior Andrew Gonzales (a WSU commit) were the CBL 4A and 3A runners of the year, respectively, a year ago. They and Hermiston senior Jordan Ringe, runner-up in the Oregon 5A cross country meet, highlight a deep distance corps in the area.

The girls had some surprise state qualifiers a year ago who look to build upon that success, including Pasco’s Marisa Vander Malle (3,200) and Janette Rodriguez (800) and a pair of Richland sophomores in the 800 — Katie Mahoney and Maggie Jones. Hanford sophomore Erin Hegarty had an up-and-down cross country season but finished sixth at state in the 3,200 last May.


Royal’s Collins won the 1A long jump title and also is a top high jumper. The area CBBN teams were hit hard by graduation in this discipline, with Kamiakin losing a pair of regional champions. Among the Tri-Cities’ 11 state qualifiers, only Kennewick senior Robert Jessop (triple jump) is back. Watch out for Wa-Hi senior Justin Piek.

The girls, though, feature a trio of state champions — Jepsen, who won the 3A high jump in 2007 and signed with EWU in February; Hanford senior Taymussa Miller, who succeeded Jepsen last May; and Richland senior Jessica Christian, who won the 4A pole vault and signed with South Dakota. The Bombers also return state qualifiers Shaniae Lakes (triple jump) and Shallyn Jackson (long jump).


This is another discipline hit hard by graduation — for both boys and girls. Hanford senior Kyle Wagar (javelin) is the only CBBN state qualifier in the area who’s back, while among the smaller schools, Prosser senior Ana Zapien (discus) and Connell senior KieOsha Avery (javelin) and sophomore Maci Whitby (discus) placed at state last year.