Everett High School’s Jayden White and Cascade’s Katie Nelson both had some pretty high expectations heading into their senior track and field seasons.
White, a top-flight thrower, and Nelson, a talented jumper, were coming off top finishes in their respective events at the 2019 state track and field championships.
State championships would have certainly been attainable for each this spring, but neither received the opportunity to reach the top of the podium. The state track and field championships were scheduled to be held last Thursday through Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, but were canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite missing out on their final spring seasons, both were honored Thursday night by the Everett School District for being exceptional student-athletes.
White and Nelson were named the school district’s Male and Female Athletes of the Year at its annual awards ceremony, which took place over a prerecorded video.
“It feels super good to be recognized for the different accomplishments, especially after missing out on my senior season this year,” White said. “But it was a super unexpected reward and I feel really honored to receive it.”
Said Nelson: “It’s pretty exciting. I’m very grateful and lucky to get that award and recognition. But I definitely think that right now it’s a little bit bittersweet. I honestly don’t think I deserve how much attention I’ve got in the last, like, hour compared to a lot of things that are happening now like the Black Lives Matter movement.
“I think we should be more focused on that, but I’m still very grateful for receiving the award.”
Each winner receives a $2,500 scholarship from the school district. White and Nelson will both attend the University of Washington.
White has earned a scholarship to compete with the UW track and field team next spring. The Seagulls’ senior finished second in the shot put and sixth in the discus throw in Class 3A at state as a junior.
He said he expected to compete for a state title in each this season while also breaking school records in both events along the way.
White has been training to stay sharp for his first college season and said he’s working out three to four times a week and throwing five to six days.
“I’ve gotten a lot stronger from the workouts already,” White said. “… My numbers and throws are just skyrocketing right now. So I’m really excited about that, too.”
Before the high school season started, White was scheduled to compete in a national high school indoor track and field championship event in New York in March, but the event was canceled due to COVID-19. He ranks sixth in the country in the weight throw and seventh in the hammer throw, according to HSHammer.com.
White, a five-time letter winner who also played basketball before his senior year, is interested in studying physiology in college.
“I just geek out about the human body and how everything functions, how everything works,” he said. “… I just feel like that would be a really interesting field for me to go into.”
Nelson took second in the 4A high jump at last year’s state track and field championships while finishing only one inch shy of the state-title winner.
Nelson said she felt some pressure to win a state title after finishing second last season, but ultimately the most important thing she was looking for this spring was to show continued improvement to prove to coaches at UW that she’d be worthy of a roster spot.
The Bruins senior has had some talks with coaches at UW about joining the track and field squad, but with 2020 college seniors who also missed their spring sports seasons having the option to return for another year of eligibility next season, coaches are still waiting to see how many spots will be available. She hopes to get a tryout.
“I think we’re just going to keep talking,” Nelson said. “I might get a chance to try out, but I’m not sure yet.”
Nelson, who also played on the girls basketball team, is a six-time letter winner at Cascade. She’s interested in studying neuroscience and becoming a neurologist or a media psychiatrist — a medical doctor who specializes in treating mental health issues and diagnosable disorders.
Ten other finalists were nominated for the awards: Jackson’s Hannah Thompson, Allyson Kim, Charles Immendorf and Case Matter; Cascade’s Madelyn Barrett, Grace Mitchell and Jaxon Roberts; and Everett’s Megan Low, Frances O’Meara and Aaron Robertson. Each will receive a $500 scholarship.
Scholarships awarded at the event came from donations from Everett School District coaches and administrators, the Everett Coaches/Extracurricular Association and the Everett Elks Club.