Larry Still and Heather Donais admit they don’t thrive on the spotlight. It’s probably safe to say that the Tri-City Herald All-Area track and field athletes of the year are more comfortable away from it.
Case in point: Donais’ ASB adviser bestowed the unofficial honor of “the most humble person on Earth” on the Kamiakin High School junior.
Neither athlete could avoid the attention this season, however, as Donais and Still managed to set an impressive standard for excellence in their events.
Still, who recently graduated from Richland, earned his second consecutive state championship in the Class 4A boys pole vault.
How did he celebrate?
“I went and had a Mountain Dew for the first time in a long time,” Still said. “I go on a pretty strict diet when I’m in training. It tasted awesome.”
Donais won four gold medals at the girls Class 3A state championships, helping the 4x100- and 4x200-meter relay crews win titles and topping the field in the 100 and 300 hurdles.
She bounced back from a torn meniscus in her right knee as a sophomore, a circumstance that might have helped her competitive fires burn a bit brighter as a junior.
“I always tell myself to run with my heart,” Donais said. “Last year was frustrating. I was expected to go (to state). That set the tone for this year — to get back and redeem myself.”
Kamiakin coach Cheryl Schauble, the Herald’s pick for girls coach of the year, has a whole stable of athletes to be proud of after the Braves brought home their fourth consecutive Class 3A team title. However, she admires Donais’ never-give-up attitude.
“You just say ‘Sic ’em’ to her, and she just wins,” Schauble said. “She’s got that gumption that just doesn’t quit.”
You could say Donais is a chip off the old block. Her mother, Joyce (née Schweim), was a standout hurdler at the University of Washington and still is listed among the Huskies’ top 10 career-best times in the 100 hurdles. But Heather chose to go her own way when she verbally committed to Northern Arizona to play soccer.
“Soccer is just my heart,” she said, noting that she hasn’t ruled out running track there, too.
With help from Bombers vault coach Rich Crigler, Still devoted himself to a disciplined study of pole vaulting the past three seasons, which paid off handsomely for him. However, being one of the top-ranked vaulters in the Pacific Northwest had some disadvantages. While he waited for other vaulters in the field to build the bar up, the other events would run their course. By the time it was Still’s turn to jump, most of the crowd was gone.
Once, after darkness set in during a meet at Southridge High School, athletes had to park their cars around the pit with their headlights on so Still could get in his final attempts.
“That was a first,” Still said. “I’m not a big guy as far as attention. I get my happiness from vaulting and clearing some height.”
After clearing 16 feet as a junior, Still wasn’t able to improve on that mark this season, but he finished as the state’s top Class 4A vaulter.
“I would have liked to go higher, but I had to take a step back to go forward,” he said. “I think I did what I wanted to this year. I put in all my work. I don’t have any regrets.”
Incredibly, Crigler has coached three Richland athletes to six state vaulting championships in the past eight seasons, including Elizabeth Quick in 2012-13 and Jessica Christian in 2008-09. Still credits him with keeping him on track.
“I couldn’t have gotten this far without (him),” Still said. “The selfless sacrifices he made day in and day out set me up for success.”
His next stop will be Eastern Washington University, where he hopes to expand his horizons even more. In Cheney, he’ll also join his girlfriend, Samantha Raines, a Kamiakin graduate who earned a spot on the all-area track team after her sixth-place state finish in the Class 3A 100 meters. She also helped the Braves’ 4x100 and 4x200 relays take first.
The rest of the all-area first team is as follows:
Pasco’s Christian Young (100, 400) and Chiawana’s Dre Dorton (200) capped a memorable battle this year with podium finishes at state. In the distance races, Richland’s Jonah Sandoval (800) and Kamiakin’s Andrew Snyder (1,600, 3,200) set themselves apart. Southridge’s Brian Yale (110 high hurdles) and Austin Davis of Hanford (300 hurdles) each competed well at state. Hanford’s Daron Neary (shot put) and Gavin Slack (long jump) helped lead the Falcons during the postseason, and Kamiakin’s Wyatt Musser (discus) capped an impressive sophomore year with a second-place finish at state. Richland’s Taylor O’Toole landed a first-team spot in the javelin.
There was some major talent at the Class 1A level in the jumps. Porter Romm of Columbia-Burbank captured his first state championship in the high jump, and Royal junior Joe Lang took second at state in the triple jump.
Hanford’s Darren Crow earned the nod for boys coach of the year after leading the Falcons to a district title and a second-place finish at regionals.
On the girls side, Kamiakin represented more than half the first-team selections. Donais (100H, 300H), Raines (100), Mirannda Shulman (400), Emily Moon (800), Andrea Stapleton (high jump, triple jump) and Allison Stapleton (long jump) each earned spots for the Braves. Walla Walla’s Madi Doepker (discus, shot put) and Maddy Sirmon (javelin) swept the throwing events, and Richland’s Lindsey Bradley (1,600, 3,200) locked up the long-distance spots. Angela Cardon of Pasco made the first team in the 200, and Southridge’s Marissa Berry finished her prep pole vaulting career with a fifth-place finish at state.