TACOMA - Sehome runner Emily Pittis appeared to be closing in on back-to-back Class 2A 1,600 meter state titles with 100 meters to go during the Class 2A-3A-4A State Track and Field Championships on Thursday, May 29, at Mount Tahoma High School.
But in a race in which Pittis felt forced to pace the pack in front, Lake Washington's Katia Matora stole the lead in the final 50 meters and with it Pittis' bid to repeat.
"I was supposed to stay relaxed at the beginning of the race and just keep pushing every lap and then go for it at the end," said Pittis with her silver medal dangling from her neck. "It's always hard because no one wanted to take (the lead), and I didn't really want to take it, but when no one takes it, you have to step up sometimes. It never feels good to get passed in the end, but I thought I had a good race."
She certainly did, and her time of 5 minutes, 0.76 seconds, which set a new personal record, backed Pittis' feeling. Matora finished with a 5:00.18.
The 1,600 final was one of the first races run Thursday, and Pittis said it's always difficult running right at the start of the state meet.
"First race, so it's always a little weird to run on a Thursday, because no one else has a final," she said. "I have a lot of races, so I just need to look forward to those."
Pittis also will compete in the 800 and is listed as a Mariners' 4x400 relay team member. She will look to defend her 2A 3,200-meter title on Saturday afternoon, May 31.
Only two other Whatcom County athletes competed in Thursday finals.
Bellingham jumper Tristan Hurley found a spot on the podium with a seventh-place finish, and Ferndale's only competitor, pole vaulter Donovan Campeau narrowly missed a medal, finishing ninth place.
Hurley, whose specialty is the triple jump, was competing in long jump for the first time at state and entered the competition seeded 12th. He missed the school-record mark he was aiming for but still turned in a fine jump of 20 feet, 11.75 inches.
"It felt really good being out with so many talented guys and giving it what I could," Hurley said. "I didn't really know where I was going to place. I'm happy I (medaled), and I'm confident I can tomorrow, too."
Campeau set a new PR by clearing 13-6, and his clearance was seventh best among 3A state competitors, but he fell to ninth based on jump attempts. He actually cleared 14-feet on his final attempt, but as he pulled his arms to his body after clearing the bar, he knocked it down with his hand.
"Just didn't flip my wrist and ended smacking it with my hand at the last second," Campeau said. "I was over 14, I just hit it at the last second. ... I'm happy there's at least one person here representing Ferndale. I'm pretty thrilled about that."
While only a handful of finals were held Thursday, day one at state track was all about qualifying for finals with strong preliminaries, and the majority of Whatcom County athletes put themselves on the podium with strong times.
In the girls' 100-meter hurdle prelims, both Squalicum's Allie Kohr and Bellingham's Annie Waddell finished top three in their respective heats to move on to the finals. Kohr ran a 15.09, and Waddell posted a 15.81.
"We'll see what happens tomorrow, but that felt pretty good," said Kohr, whose PR is a 15.03. "Tomorrow is the biggest thing I've been fighting for. I just have to keep myself grounded a little bit, because my mind tends to fly off to places where it shouldn't."
Bellingham's Benjamin Doucette and Squalicum's Hunter Hanlon gave the city schools two more hurdle-finals entries in the boys' 110s.
Besides the hurdles themselves, Hanlon had to overcome a human obstacle during his race to take third when the runner in the lane next to him knocked over a hurdle and subsequently disrupted his rhythm.
"It was all right at the start, but I had an extra hurdle when the guy got in my way," said Hanlon, who was a bit disappointed with his 15.67. "I'll make up all that time tomorrow and break 15. That's the goal."
Despite finishing fourth and having to watch the second heat to know he qualified, Doucette topped Hanlon with a time of 15.25.
With the exception of the Sehome boys' 4x400 relay team, all Whatcom County relay entries qualified for finals.
The Mariners girls' 4x200 relay team of Kendra Thomas, Elsa Sandeno, Sarah Dolese and Bridget Henry started the meet off with a top prelim time of 1:43.44. Bellingham's team of Mary Dyrland, Mia Hodges, Alyssa Porter and Emma Brice had the second best prelim time with a 1:44.55.
The Red Raiders 4x400 team of Brice, Leah Veldhulsen, Hodges and Katie Linton later easily won their heat and finished with a 4:05.03 - the second best prelim time.
"We went into it pretty confident," North said. "We knew what we needed to do, so no one was really that nervous. Our coach said go balls to the wall. We did that, and we came out with the result we were looking for."
Sehome's 4x400 relay finished first in the prelims with a run of 4:03.75.
Both the Lynden and Bellingham boys' 4x400 relay teams qualified for the finals. The Lions finished in 3:27.04, and the Red Raiders ran a 3:27.53.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for Whatcom County sports updates.
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