By David Krueger Herald Writer
Sometimes coaches are wrong.
But in the case of Lake Stevens track and field coach Jeff Page, he doesn’t mind.
When Samantha McGee joined the track and field team as a freshman, her first-ever sports team, Page thought that her best chance to succeed was to focus on the hurdles events. Even though McGee kept gravitating toward the high jump, which is generally viewed as more fun.
By the end of her sophomore year, McGee was going to state in both events. And finishing 10th in the state in both as well.
“She spent more time at the high jump because it was more fun and she was better at it,” Page said. “I told her, ‘You need to be over at the hurdles. It’s an event that you could go to state and medal at. The high jump will be harder for you to get to state.’ Turns out I was wrong. She got to state in both.
“I like it when I’m wrong that way.”
Now McGee has committed herself to the Vikings’ track and field team. While at Cavelero Middle School, one of McGee’s teachers, who happened to be a track coach, repeatedly talked to her about joining the track team.
McGee caved, and she couldn’t be happier she did.
“(Assistant) Coach (Cliff) Chafee was one of my teachers and he was like, ‘try out for track! Try out for track,’” McGee said. “I thought, ‘OK, I guess I will.’ So I came out and I really liked it. I like how it’s the whole team. It’s like a family. Everyone’s welcome. And, I was good, so that kind of helped.”
McGee has continued to impress Page as she continues into her junior year. She has the top 4A time in the area for the 100 hurdles (15.76 seconds), as well as the top distance in the high jump (5 feet, 6 inches).
“She is the model for what people hope happens. It’s a cool thing when a kid comes in as an athlete and gets bit by the bug and is willing to put in the work,” Page said.
According to Page, McGee was built for track and field. Not only is she super-athletic, but she also has an attitude that is tailor-made for the sport.
“She knows how to compete now. She always wanted to do what it took and was willing to race hard,” Page said. “She’s got a really good temperament for track and field. Track and field involves a lot of waiting. … That requires a certain kind of temperament. She can step up when it’s time and she can be ready. And she can relax. I find that pretty impressive. Every place we’ve gone this year she just seems to handle everything, no matter where we are or what’s going on.”
At Friday’s 4A Wesco Championships Page said he saw McGee limping after the 400 relay and immediately “thought this wasn’t good.” Then she ran a personal best in the hurdle race, and then cleared 5-6 on the high jump, which was another personal record, as well as a school and meet record.
After she hit 5-6, she decided to put the bar up to 5-8, what Page said she’d likely have to clear to win state, to see if she could make it.
“Her first attempt at 5-8 she was nearly over it. She just caught it,” Page said. “It was unbelievable. And that was her seventh or eighth jump of the competition. After warming up and running three races too.”
McGee was excited to get the school record, but still has the goal of jumping 5-8 at state.
“I was really excited to make 5-6 and beat the school record. That was really cool,” McGee said. “I’m just really ready for state. I’m hoping to do better than I did last year. I definitely want to jump 5-8. I want to (have a personal best time) in the hurdles and hopefully run in the low 15s.”
A running start student, McGee is only on campus for a couple hours a day. While at Lake Stevens High School McGee attends Page’s Advanced Placement History class after an athletics strength training and conditioning course.
Page said that several Lake Stevens athletes are in that strength training and conditioning class, and that he’s often told by the teacher that McGee is among the hardest workers of all of them.
“She’s worked really hard at that. It’s great to see that it’s really paying off,” Page said. “The word is out among our kids. If you really want to be successful as an athlete the road to the state meet basically runs through the weight room. Even if you’re a distance runner.”
When she’s not at school — or track — McGee also has a job at Safeway. Between the three activities McGee has very little free time.
“I have free time on Mondays, that’s about it,” McGee said laughing. “Every day after school I go to work and after work I go to track. It’s busy but it’s nice keeping busy. I get kind of bored when I’m not doing anything.”
McGee should remain busy through the state tournament, where Page thinks she will improve on last year’s finishes.
“I think she wants to be on the awards stand at state,” Page said. “After Friday night she’s got to be thinking — at least I’m thinking — she’ll get pretty high up on the award stand. The top high jump in the state in 4A is 5-7 and there are three girls who have gone 5-6 and Sam’s one of them.
“She seems to be peaking at just the right time. The Wesco record that she broke was a record that was co-held by three girls and two of them were Lake Stevens girls. We’ve had some good high jumpers recently but Sam is just able to do some things the other ones couldn’t do. It’s pretty fun to watch.”
McGee, who still has another season with the Vikings next year, hopes to earn a scholarship for track and field and continue to compete in college. As for her senior year, she’s thinking she might stick with the same events, although she’s not ruling out trying the long jump, an event she tried at the beginning of the year.
“I’m going to give it my all,” McGee said. “I’ll probably stick with the same events. Maybe do long jump. I was doing the long jump earlier this season then got carried into the 4 x 100 (relay).”
Page is willing to give it a shot.
“I think she’d be a pretty good long jumper too,” Page said. “I think by the time she graduates, she’s going to be a pretty remarkable, pretty darned good high school track and field athlete.”
The Lake Stevens coach doesn’t think he’ll be wrong about that.