On a weekend filled with high drama, spills, brutal weather and new faces challenging for supremacy at the 2A state track and field championships May 27-29 at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma, it was, in the end, the already seasoned veterans doing exactly what was expected from the very beginning that made the difference for the Blaine girls track team.
Senior Robin Taylor crowned her high school with an unprecedented third consecutive title in the pole vault while sophomore Cherish Morrison captured four more championships to lead the Borderites to a second place team finish at Star Track XXVIII.
For Taylor, she and the rest of the 2A vaulters were the very last to have their results determined. Scheduled to be the second event during the Friday session, chilling rain and blustery crosswinds postponed all of the pole vault events for the day.
To accommodate all three classifications, meet officials hurriedly rescheduled the events and changed the venue of the 2A participants to Pacific Lutheran University, nearly eight miles away. Instead of a crowd of thousands, Taylor pursued her third title before a small, vocal crowd of about 50.
Once again, she dueled her closest rival all season, senior Cheyenna Pinley of Squalicum, who matched Taylor jump for jump. One party crasher during the final jumps though was Sequim’s Samantha Whitehead, who finished third in the competition with her personal record jump of 11-0.
As the weather finally began to clear, Taylor cleared 11-3 after Pinley failed on her first attempt. Pinley cleared the height on her final attempt. Neither Taylor or Pinley could clear 11-6 and because Taylor cleared the highest mark in the fewest attempts, she reaped her third championship in as many years.
“Obviously, it feels good to win my third title,” said Taylor, who is considering a track career at Eastern Oregon University, “she (Pinley) is always tough competition.”
“She is such a tough kid,” Blaine pole vault coach Rob Ridnour gushed about his graduating senior, “she’s going to leave a big hole to fill next year.”
Meanwhile, Morrison picked up where she left off last year. She joined Taylor, Kiersten Sigfusson and relay team newcomer Olivia Moore on the 4x200 relay team defending their championship from last year.
Fighting a tough, frigid head wind on the homestretch, Taylor and Moore couldn’t break free from the pack. Sigfusson made up some ground on the backstretch, but it was Morrison’s anchor leg that could only be described as electrifying.
Taking the baton from Sigfusson, she streaked past the other racers in the last 75 meters of turn two and three. So fast was her split that as the pack turned on to the homestretch they were already several meters behind Morrison, who led Blaine to a sizzling 1:45.94 championship effort. For Moore, it was her first championship.
“I was super nervous,” said the beaming Moore, “I’m just glad we all ran so smooth.”
Morrison, then, cruised to easy victories in the short sprints, winning the 100 with a time of 12.54 which was actually better than 3A champ and Morrison’s closest competition in the state, Franklin Pierce’s Germe Poston. She won the 200m title with a time of 25.24, while Sigfusson finished sixth with a time of 26.83.
The 400m was the only race where Morrison was challenged. After leading the entire race, Morrison turned in the last 35 meters and saw Mount Baker’s Molly Scoles outlasting her by only two tenths of a second.
“Mentally, the 400 is my hardest race,” noted Morrison, “Kiersten (Sigfusson) is always telling me to know what’s in my mind. She would ask me, ‘How much pain are you willing to endure?’” Sigfusson is the only 2A Washington athlete to beat Morrison in the 400.
The race which tests pure sprinters is especially challenging for Morrison, who has been nursing two umbilical hernias all season and is expected to have surgery this summer to repair them.
Joining the runners was Penina Laolagi, who qualified for state by winning the district championship in shot put. Despite a strong throw of 33-01.75, Laolagi failed to earn a medal, with a host of athletes throwing over 37 feet.
On the boy’s side, Caleb Statham was the only Blaine participant to medal, finishing seventh in the 100m sprint with a time of 11.75. Tom Bradley finished 12th in the 3200, Tusapa Laolagi tied for 12th in the high jump and Tucker Morgan finished 11th in the long jump.
“I’m proud of what we accomplished this year,” a pleased Blaine track and field coach Mike Grambo said afterward, “five individual championships and a second in the state is a great accomplishment. Sehome (the 2A girls champion) is a great team and it shows just how tough our conference is.”
While Taylor will be moving on to college, the Borderites’ girls team will have many returnees including Laolagi, Sigfusson, sprinter Rachel McKinstry and, of course, Morrison, who has become the team leader. Her close friend Sigfusson has experienced that trait firsthand.
“When we’re racing (in the 400 or the 200), Cherish will talk to me in the last turns,” commented Sigfusson, “it really pushes me.”
Morrison is now 8-0 in championship races and is, along with Blaine fans, looking forward to eight more opportunities in her high school career.