Changing up relays the week of the regional meet is rarely a recipe for success, but for the Walla Walla boys 4x100 it worked to perfection.
Thanks to a variety of injuries in recent weeks, the Blue Devils were forced to change up personnel as well as the order of the athletes before settling on Brennen Barberich, Stuart Gillin, Darnell Handcox and Ethan Gardner.
On Friday, the group ran as though they’d been running that way for years, winning the Class 4A regional title in 42.82 at Edgar Brown Stadium in Pasco.
“It was crazy,” Gardner said. “The trials we faced to get here and we are going back to state.”
The injury list is long and a bit bizarre: Gardner was hit by a car in a parking lot, missing two meets; Gillin hurt his back deadlifting 100 pounds, which is nothing for the bruising linebacker; Handcox hurt his quad jumping.
It all added up to lots of turmoil as the relay was preparing for a return trip to the state meet where it took second a year ago.
Add in that Barberich is a freshman and it seemed as though Walla Walla might struggle, but everything turned out for the best Friday.
“They are very comfortable and have great composure,” Walla Walla coach Eric Hisaw said. “Brennen has really come on strong.”
THE SUN BURNS BRIGHT: For the first time in school history, Southridge will have a boys relay at the state meet.
For good measure, the girls will have at least one as well.
Both 4x100 relays came home winners Friday, with neither being challenged.
On the boys side, Conner Grigg, Maceo Ealy-Thomas, Brandon Zane and Tanner Pope combined to win in 42.72 seconds, which is the fourth fastest 3A time in the state and personal best for the Suns by .23 seconds.
“It’s really exciting,” Pope said. “All the hard work paying off and all of us just juniors and coming back.”
While the group always figured they were good, they didn’t realize just how good until the Pasco Invite when they tied the school record. Now, they’ve made school history and can put the cherry on top next week at state.
On the girls side, it was a melding of the old and the new.
The Suns took second at state last year, but Kylie Fraga isn’t doing track this year and Michelle Snider graduated.
Nicole Edwards and Mertece Hatchet returned, though, and have been pouring in the work with Makenna Behrens and Bree Lane, and it paid off Friday with a personal best time of 48.92, which is the third best time in the state for 3A this year.
“We told them coming in we have big shoes to fill and they were ready to step up and do it,” Edwards said. “No pressure, just had to give it their all.
“At the start of the year, it wasn’t state caliber. The speed was there, but we just had to get our handoffs and we did that (Friday).”
THE MADI AND MADDY SHOW: Walla Walla flexed its muscles in the girls throwing events Friday, as Madi Doepker won her first regional title in the shot put and Maddy Sirmon won the title in the javelin.
While Sirmon’s mark wasn’t her best, she will have a chance to defend her state title in the event.
Sirmon won the event with a 138-4, topping Richland’s Bridgette Underwood (132-6), though it was more than 3 feet under her season best throw.
“It’s been an average year so far, but I think I can do the job,” she said. “I won the state title on my last throw, so hopefully I can do that again.”
Doepker also wasn’t pleased with her throws in the javelin and used it to take a surprise title in the shot put.
“I was really mad from javelin and just threw (the shot),” she said. “I didn’t do as well as I wanted to (in the javelin).”
She won the shot put with a throw of 38-5.25, topping teammate Katarina Tonhdavong’s throw of 37-10.5.
Doepker finished third in the javelin, just missing out on a state berth in that event.
Asked if she will try to find something to make her mad before competing in the shot put at state, she said she had a better answer.
“I think I’m just going to really work on technique,” Doepker said. “It feels really good to accomplish something like this.”
LINDSEY THE BRAVE: Kamiakin’s Lindsey Schauble has had plenty of success in her athletic career, making the state tournament with the school’s basketball team and participating in two team track and field titles.
But she had never won an individual regional title.
Check that one off after Friday.
The Kamiakin junior soared 17-10.5 to win the Class 3A long jump, nosing past teammate Andrea Stapleton’s 17-7.5.
“It is really, really good,” she said. “I’ve wanted it for so long, it feels good to get it.”
Schauble looked certain to win a regional title as a sophomore in the hurdles, but tripped near the finish line and missed the state meet.
“I feel like there is redemption,” she said. “Hopefully I can (win a title) in the 300s (today).”
LAST BUT NOT LEAST: Hanford’s Dallon Grinder and Ben Kelly continued their strong seasons, winning the discus and long jump respectively.
Grinder won with a throw of 162-6, while Kelly leapt 22-0.25.
Richland High’s Payton Radliff won the Class 4A long jump, soaring 22-8.75.
Teammate Michael Williams won the 3,200.
On the girls side, Kamiakin’s Andrea Stapleton won the high jump, clearing 5-6 and teammate Elisa Grandemange won the javelin with a throw of 117-8.
Richland’s Lauren Perry won the 3,200.
NOW THAT IS FAST: North Central’s Tanner Anderson won the Class 3A 3,200 in 8:56.8, setting the stadium record owned by Ferris’ Rick Riley since 1966.
The top five from the event met the state standard to advance.