TACOMA — Trayce Hanks was not going to be denied. Not even by his own feet.
And the Lake Stevens High School boys track and field team gave coach Jeff Page an accomplishment that’s long overdue, even if he wasn’t there to witness it in person.
Hanks anchored the Vikings to championships in both the 400-meter and 1,600-meter relays — despite a frightening stumble during in the 400 — and Lake Stevens gave longtime coach Page his first state team title with its efforts at the 4A state track and field championships Saturday at Mount Tahoma High School.
Lake Stevens trailed Federal Way by three points heading into the meet’s final event, the 1,600 relay. But the top-seeded Vikings had an emphatic victory in the event to secure maximum points, and Lake Stevens’ margin over the Eagles (58-51) left some room to spare.
“Honestly, that’s what we came here to do, to win the whole thing,” said junior Grant Buckmiller, who was part of both winning relays and also placed third in the 400. “We didn’t think we were that close to getting it, but then we saw we actually had a shot.”
Page has coached both the Lake Stevens boys and girls since 1994, and although the Vikings have always been competitive they’d yet to win a team title, with the boys taking second in both 2000 and 2007 and the girls finishing second in 2019. So the team title had a little extra special meaning for Page, even though he was unable to attend because of illness.
“It’s been a long time coming,” said assistant coach Nick Page, who’s Jeff Page’s son. “This program has been solid for a long time, and we’ve won a lot of district and league titles, and we’ve finished every place in the top 10 but No. 1 until today. So it’s pretty special to get it done.
“It’s really too bad he’s not here,” Nick Page continued about his dad, who at least received a celebratory video call from the team. “I knew when he texted us on Thursday morning and said he was sick and wouldn’t be able to come we were either going to have a catastrophic weekend or win the whole thing, and so we won the whole thing. And the kids did absolutely what they needed to do. They lived up to what they came in performance-wise.”
Lake Stevens won the team title thanks to the quality and depth of its hurdlers and its 400 runners, who combined to score 56 of the team’s 58 points — if you include the 400 relay, which featured three 400 runners. And the relays put the Vikings over the top.
First they did it at the shorter distance in the 400 relay, when Hanks overcame a dramatic stumble on the final stretch to anchor the Vikings to victory. Lake Stevens was the top seed entering the race and Hanks, a senior, found himself slightly behind when he received the baton for the anchor leg after juniors Buckmiller, Hamid Sylla and Quinton Berry put him in position. Hanks ran down the competition and was en route to victory when he stumbled with about 30 meters remaining, But somehow Hanks avoided falling, maintained his composure, regained his speed and leaned at the tape as the Vikings finished in 42.51 seconds to edge Federal Way by just two-hundredths.
“I just tripped on my own foot, I almost lost the race,” Hanks said. “But there were some meters left where I could catch up so I finished it off.
“I knew I was determined to get that,” Hanks added. “I hate losing, we love winning over here, so I knew I wasn’t going to have it be my fault that we lost.”
With the victory the Vikings retained their state championship in the event. Lake Stevens won the 400 relay the last time a state meet was held in 2019. None of this year’s relay winners were a part of that 2019 team, which was the first Snohomish County squad ever to win the state title in the event in the largest classification.
Then in the 1,600 relay, Buckmiller staked the Vikings to an big lead, senior Kaden Chidester and Sylla held down the middle, and Hanks ran an electric anchor leg, making up a short deficit before the end of the first turn and racing away as Lake Stevens finished with a winning time of 3:20.69.
“That meant a lot to me personally,” Buckmiller said about sweeping the relays, “because two of them are seniors and they’re going to be leaving. It’s going to be tough next year without them. We hadn’t lost that (1,600) relay, so we wanted to win it and take it all tonight.”
Hanks came oh so close to adding an individual state championship in the 400. He and Olympia’s Connor Johnson were neck and neck the entire length of the home straight, and they crossed the finish line in a virtual dead heat, both being given a time of 48.84 seconds. However, Johnson was judged to have won the lean, and Hanks had to settle for second.
In the hurdle events senior Sean Martelles, who already gave Lake Stevens big points by finishing second in the 110 hurdles Friday, added more by placing third in the 300 hurdles Saturday.
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