TACOMA — Daniel Arias didn’t need to come back for his senior track and field season.
His opponents in the Class 4A boys 400-meter state final probably wish he wouldn’t have.
The Jackson football star got off to a blazing start, distancing himself from the pack early, and left little hope for his competitors as he bounded his way with gazelle-like strides to a 49.02-second finish to claim his first-ever state title Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School.
“He started really fast, probably as fast in the 200 or 400 meters that he’s ever ran for us,” Timberwolves coach Eric Hruschka said. “He was very aggressive early. I was a little bit worried early actually, but he ran really smart and he’s so strong down the straight away nobody can get back into the race.”
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Arias is already slated to attend the University of Colorado on a football scholarship in the fall, but still the Dominican-born sprinter felt he left some unfinished business on the track after last year’s runner-up finish to nationally ranked Eastmont senior Jake Ulrich.
“Last year I was bummed out getting second place,” Arias said. “… I just worked all season for this. I’m really excited and really proud of myself for achieving my goal.”
Hruschka said it was probably the biggest reason Arias returned this year.
Arias gets his motivation to excel on the track and football field from his mother, who left him and his two siblings in the Dominican Republic when he was 7 years old to move to Washington, work and gain United States citizenship to bring Arias and his kin to the states.
“She’s always pushed me in everything I’ve done — football, track, anything,” Arias said. “She’s always pushed me to be better, work harder, beat the guy next to me. My mom has definitely been one of my big mentors. My first mentor actually. She’s pushed me ever since I came to Washington from the (Dominican Republic).”
Unfortunately, Arias’ mother couldn’t attend his final high school sporting event, but he still had family and friends in attendance.
Watching Arias run may not be the best way to pick up on his work ethic. His effortless and fluid running style is something Hruschka called a “gift.”
“He’s so smooth as a runner … (He) looks so smooth that you think he’s going slow,” Hruschka said. “… But the clock never lies.
“There’s a true natural gift he has to run. I always tell him if football doesn’t work out there’s plenty of Pac-12 schools that would love to have him come run for them.”
Cedarcrest distance runner wins state title
In his last weekend to claim a state-title victory that had eluded him the past two years, Cedarcrest senior Grant Van Valkenberg didn’t get the start he hoped for on Thursday when he saw his lead in the 1,600 meters erased by Selah’s Daniel Callahan with 200 meters left.
Saturday the Red Wolves’ distance runner got his chance to avenge that loss.
Battling Bellingham’s Cade Brown at the front of the pack for the entire eight-lap race, Van Valkenberg legged out a first-place finish with a personal-best time of 9:11.89 in the 2A boys 3,200 meters.
“I’ve gotten second place in state races three times now,” Van Valkenberg said. “So I really, really wanted this one, and I’m super happy.”
Other local notables
Everett senior Elijah Ross-Rutter earned a second-place medal in the 3A boys long jump, hitting a personal-best mark of 22-5.25. Ross-Rutter also placed second in the triple jump on Thursday.
Snohomish County schools claimed two of the top three spots in the 3A boys pole vault. Stanwood senior Landon Curry edged Snohomish senior Kalvyn McDaniel for second place by way of a tiebreaker. Both athletes hit personal-best vaults of 14-6.
Arlington senior Campbell Hudson eked out a third-place in the 3A boys 300 meter hurdles by 0.01 seconds over the fourth-place finisher with a time of 39.68.
Glacier Peak junior Riley McDowell notched a third-place finish in the 4A boys 3,200 meters with a time of 9:13.81.
Grace Academy junior Caleb Sanders won the 1B boys long jump title with a jump of 20-11 in Cheney.