TACOMA — Highly touted distance runner Amy-Eloise Neale wanted to get off to a good start in the first event of her first high school state track and field meet.
She can certainly check that goal off her list.
Neale, a Glacier Peak High School freshman, battled rain and a determined opponent to win the girls 3,200-meter race in record time on Thursday at the Class 3A state track and field championships. Pushed to the limit by North Central (Spokane) freshman Kathryn Knight, Neale won in 10 minutes, 31.75 seconds during a steady downpour at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
Even though rainy conditions contributed to a slower first mile than the runners anticipated, Neale broke the 3A meet record by four-hundredths of a second. The old record (10:31.79) was set by Sumner’s Katrina Drennen in 2007.
Neale, the favorite, was in a four-person lead pack for the last several laps of the eight-lap race. She used her trademark finishing kick over the final 300 meters and barely held off Knight, who took second place in a time of 10:31.86, 0.11 slower than Neale.
Neale, who hasn’t been challenged much this season, said it was fun to get pushed by Knight, who has raced Neale several times before in cross country and track. Neale fended off Knight’s threat at the end and became the first track state champion in Glacier Peak history.
“It means a lot,” said Neale. “Plus, I’ve changed my mindset for the mile and the 4-by-4. I’ve got one race behind me and I did well — it makes me more confident for my next races.”
After her individual victory, Neale ran in a preliminary heat as a member of Glacier Peak’s 1,600 relay team. The Grizzlies finished third in their heat and advanced as the fifth seed for Saturday’s final. Neale’s other remaining individual event is the 1,600, which also takes place on Saturday, the final day of the three-day meet.
Neale isn’t the only Glacier Peak girl who had a stellar first day at state: Senior Katie Higgins placed second for the Grizzlies in the 3A discus.
Higgins barely advanced out of prelims, earning the last spot in the finals on her final prelim attempt. But she got better and better after that, peaking with a throw of 120 feet, 10 inches — not bad for a girl who didn’t start competing in the event until April 2009.
“She just took to it like ducks to water,” Glacier Peak coach Brannon Jackson said.
Thursday also was Day 1 of the 2A and 4A state meets at Mount Tahoma Stadium. In the 4A girls triple jump, Oak Harbor’s Shantae Young broke her own school record on her first attempt of the meet and placed third. Young jumped 38-6.75.
“It felt amazing,” Young said. “It was one of those moments where you’re like, ‘Oh, that felt good!’”
Three Stanwood teammates placed in the top six in the 4A girls 3,200: Natasha Verma (third), Jordin Stephenson (fourth) and Minna Fields (sixth). All three Spartans run in the 1,600 final on Saturday.
Other top local finishers in Thursday’s finals were Shorecrest’s Emily Corona (fourth in 3A high jump) and Cedarcrest’s Ashton Griffen (fourth in 2A javelin).
3200 Run — 1, Anna Dailey, Garfield, 10:28.91. 2, Marisa Vander Malle, Pasco, 10:40.98. 3, Natasha Verma, Stanwood, 11:00.31. 4, Jordin Stephenson, Stanwood, 11:02.52. 5, Rachel Atwood, Auburn Riverside, 11:02.81. 6, Minna Fields, Stanwood, 11:03.16. 7, Devin McMahon, Redmond, 11:03.36. 8, Clare Kane, Olympia, 11:04.77.
Triple Jump — 1, Bianca Walton, Tahoma, 39-05 ¼. 2, Tess Parent, Inglemoor, 38-10. 3, Shantae Young, Oak Harbor, 38-06 ¾. 4, Keza King, Curtis, 37-07 ¼. 5, Taylor Reynolds, Eastmont, 37-01. 6, Jaleecia Roland, Federal Way, 37-00 ¼. 7, Miko Starks, Curtis, 36-05 ¼. 8, Lindsey Dahl, Thomas Jefferson, 36-05 ¼.
3200 Run — 1, Amy Eloise Neale, Glacier Peak, 10:31.75. 2, Kathryn Knight, North Central, 10:31.86. 3, Kendra Weitz, Shadle Park, 10:37.13. 4, Tansey Lystad, Juanita, 10:39.88. 5, Allison Clark, Columbia River, 10:56.6. 6, Sarah Bobbe, Columbia River, 10:59.92; 7, Kayla Blackford, Camas, 11:02.56. 8, Tessa Murray, Mount Vernon, 11:04.50.
Discus — 1, Anna Adamko, Columbia River, 126-11. 2, Katie Higgins, Glacier Peak, 120-10. 3, Marissa Paopao, Auburn-Mountainview, 120-04. 4, Summer Nash, Bishop Blanchet, 120-01. 5, Corina Linder, Mount Si, 116-10. 6, Johna McEllrath, Prairie, 115-05. 7, Celena Ward, North Central, 114-04. 8, Chandler Mason, Peninsula, 110-01.
High Jump — 1, Sasha Weber, Timberline, 5-08. 2, Ceci Stevenson, Port Angeles, 5-05. 3, Brittany Grandy, Sedro-Woolley, 5-05. 4, Emily Corona, Shorecrest, 5-05. 5, K.J. Cason, Capital, 5-02. 6, Heather Browning, Union, 5-02. 7, Emi Lawson, Lakeside, 5-02. 8, Lauren Neff, Camas, 5-02.
1600 Run — 1, Allison Cutting, Sequim, 11:04.52; 2, Marina Roberts, Kingston, 11:13.23. 3, Maren Hanson, Anacortes, 11:13.60. 4, Brittany Gappa, Squalicum, 11:16.91. 5, Sanne Holland, Cheney, 11:21.87. 6, Sammi Blodgett, Wapato, 11:28.06. 7, Dani Eggleston, R.A. Long, 11:31.57. 8, Katie Delahunt, Sehome, 11:34.46.
Javelin — 1, Christine Kirkwood, Othello, 162-10. 2, Courtney Fairhart, Eatonville, 138-00. 3, Nina Al-Hassan, Pullman, 124-05. 4, Ashton Griffen, Cedarcrest, 122-11. 5, Joni Nagy, Riverside, 122-10. 6, Ericka Smith, Granite Falls, 118-10. 7, Rachel Pederson, Burlington-Edison, 112-00. 8, Emma Fredere, Tumwater 111-00.
Mike Cane: firstname.lastname@example.org. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam