TACOMA - It's nearly impossible to pinpoint which area of the Sehome boys' track and field team was most responsible for claiming its third state title in seven years.
Everyone played a role in this championship, and never has co-coach Kevin Ryan seen a group elevate it's level of competition as much as the Mariners boys did during the Class 2A-3A-4A Track and Field State Championships Saturday, May 25, at Mount Tahoma High School.
From Reed Henderson's record-setting 800 final, to Conner Johnsen's record-setting 3,200 final to first-year thrower Austin Rapp's two fifth-place medals in shot put and discus, to first-year Sehome sprinter Daniel Ziegler's surprise fourth-place medal in the 100 and finally the Mariners domination in pole vault, every single aspect of the Sehome boys' team played a role in claiming a title.
And nearly all of them made it happen on championship Saturday.
"I can never remember just having a team where everyone came out and just performed," Ryan said. "Not just performed, but really brought it. We've never had a group just bring it like that. We definitely weren't the favorites coming into this week. We were kind of overlooked all year. The kids that were here are the ones that bought into what the coaches were doing. Over 13 weeks, everyone got better and better and better."
Sehome finished with 66 points, Tumwater finished second with 53 points, defending state champion Ephrata logged 46 points for third and Squalicum rounded out the top four with 39 points. Bellingham finished tied for 26th with eight points, and Lynden's four points was good for a share of 37th.
The Mariners weren't stressing at the end, waiting to hear the results, either. Johnsen's brilliant 3,200 win over Squalicum standout Patrick Gibson in a time of 8 minutes, 59.76 seconds sealed the victory.
"I think we locked up the team title," Johnsen said after his race. "Our co-coaches Kevin and coach (Tim) Carlson, they preach all year that we're a team, and we're going to do everything to make you the best you can be by the end, and after the mile Thursday - the only final - we had a team meeting in our hotel and they said, 'All right, guys, this sets the tone. Let's see what we can do.'"
What the Mariners did, especially Saturday, was simply masterful.
Henderson set the tone with a winning time of 1:52.39 in the 800 meter - a race the senior's been trying to win every year and has been so close to doing so. Nick Saupe followed up with a fifth-place finish in the 300 meter hurdles with his time of 39.29 seconds. Ziegler then exceeded expectations with a fourth-place time of 11.18 seconds in the 100. Johnsen captured his 3,200 title, and Rapp bolstered the Mariners' lead with a mark of 157 feet, 4 inches in the discus, finishing fifth and scoring four points.
"To reiterate what Kevin said, they did phenomenal today," Carlson said. "I think one of the top things was just execution, and what Kevin's kids did was amazing, taking that game plan and executing it to perfection."
Each athlete spoke of their individual accomplishments, but more so emphasized the impact their times or marks had on team standings.
"I'm really happy. It's just one step closer to the team goal," Henderson said.
"By the way we've been performing, I think we can place top five. It's good to get some points," Saupe said.
"I'm really happy I got here, and I'm just happy I was able to contribute to everybody's amazing performances," Rapp said.
"It feels really good to help the team out. It's really nice to be able to help out a little bit and push us towards first place," Ziegler said.
The ones previously mentioned gave Sehome's athletes not competing Saturday an impressive spectacle to watch.
"Today I couldn't sit down, because every race I was on edge," said Sehome senior pole vaulter Dylan Anderson, who won the vault title by clearing a school-record-tying mark of 14-09.00 Friday, May 24. "We had so many perform out of their skin and take races when they needed to. It was crazy to have all our teammates compete at the best they could right now."
In all, Sehome recorded three of Whatcom County's five state titles.
The other two belonged to Squalicum, which enjoyed a fine state meet itself.
Senior sprinter Kyler Reed capped a strong career by running in four final events Saturday. He finished sixth in the 100 meters with a time of 11.30 and took eighth in the 200 meters in a time of 22.52 seconds. He also ran a leg in Squalicum's fourth-place 4x100 team, consisting of teammates Jason Pfannenstiel, Neall Koetje and Jonah Jacobson. They finished with a 43.21 that broke the old school record. The highlight for Reed, and teammate Pfannenstiel, Koetje and Fredlund, was their title-winning time of 3:21.34 in the 4x400 relay.
"It was really nice taking four events to state this year, because I just took three last year," Reed said. "That was pretty crazy. I feel like I didn't run as well in those events, because I was so set on this 4x4 throughout the day."
Pfannenstiel also ended his track career Saturday. Besides the 4x100 and 4x400 relays, he finished eighth in the 300 meter hurdles with a time of 40.11 seconds.
Gibson also closed the final chapter on his storied career, which includes multiple cross country and track titles. A second-place finish wasn't quite what he wanted, but his 9:01.80 broke last year's 3,200 2A state record.
"I can never say I'm not happy winning, but I knew I had to get out quick, because Conner has better speed than I do," Gibson said. "He ended up holding it and winning it. To lose to anybody, I'm happy it was Conner, or if it was (Bellingham's) Joe (Charbonneau), I'd be OK with it."
Storm coach Katrina Henry was thrilled with her team and the way her seniors have performed and led this meet and all season.
"Overall, I'm just really happy," she said. "I'm just really proud of everybody coming here on both the boys' and girls' side. We had a few disappointments with not everybody placing where they wanted to in the finals, but I think everybody did the best they could."
The Lynden boys' team finished the state meet with a strong fifth-place finish in the 4x400 relay. Team members Trent Postma, Jalani Phelps, Bryce Sterk and Jordan Sterk combined to turn in a time of 3:24.29. The group improved on their seed time, preliminary time and set a new personal record in the process.
Charbonneau closed his successful running career with a fifth-place finish in the 3,200. He stayed with Johnsen and Gibson most of the race and finished with a time of 9:14.74. Finishing one, two and five was a great way for the trio to end their 2A track careers.
"It definitely keeps you on your feet," said Charbonneau of racing with Gibson, Johnsen and the many other distance runners in this year's loaded senior class. "In my earlier years, I was nowhere near these guys. Having them as the standard, it was pretty good to try to catch up with them. They set a good example. They work hard. They run hard, race hard and like the sport, and they have helped bring me into it."
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