TACOMA — Yareli Ochoa picked the perfect time to finally clear 5 feet, 4 inches.
With one soaring personal-best leap, the Lakewood senior high jumper achieved a mark she’d long been striving for and claimed the Class 2A girls state title Thursday on the opening day of the track and field state championships at Mount Tahoma High School.
“I immediately started tearing up,” Ochoa said. “I was like, ‘Wow, I finally got that goal I’ve set.’ It was nice. Very nice.”
Ochoa, a four-time top-10 state placer, cleared 5-2 as a freshman. She matched that several times throughout her career, but could never quite reach 5-4.
That is, until Thursday. On her first attempt at that height, Ochoa cleared the bar with a state-winning jump.
“I attempted (5-4) last year and had some good attempts at it, but I didn’t make it,” she said. “I knew it was doable, but (I didn’t think) on the first try. I just tried to go (at) it with confidence.”
Ochoa placed ninth in state as a freshman, fourth as a sophomore and fifth as a junior. Each state meet, she improved her mark by two inches.
“I’ve been struggling with 5-2 since freshman year,” she said, “so it was really nice in my last state competition to finally get 5-4.”
Everett duo comes inches away from state titles
While Ochoa’s day ended in storybook fashion, Everett’s standout senior duo experienced a different set of emotions.
Ben Howard and Elijah Ross-Rutter were sitting in first place heading into the final rounds of their respective events. Yet both were dealt runner-up finishes after sixth-round personal bests by the opposition.
“To taste it and not get to go home with it, that’s pretty hard for a high school kid,” Everett coach Rachel Zupke said. “But at the same time, I’m so proud of both of them. … To have two Everett guys get second in both events literally at the same time, that’s a pretty big deal.”
Howard earned a second-place medal in the 3A boys shot put with a personal-best mark of 54 feet, 11.25 inches. He held the lead until Wilson senior Josiah Vaiolo’s final-round winning throw of 55-01.25, which shattered a personal best by more than five feet.
“Honestly, I thought I had it,” Howard said. “It was kind of shocking to realize that I didn’t. (But) after all the hard work that I put in, I still came out really, really high. I’m still proud of myself and what I was able to accomplish.”
Ross-Rutter placed second in the 3A boys triple jump with a mark of 46-4.25. He finished just half an inch behind Chief Sealth senior Elijah Jackson, who won the state title with a personal-best 46-4.75.
“For him to just miss out by half of an inch is painful,” Everett jump coach Isaiah Marshall said, “but to see the growth he’s shown is tremendous.”
Other local placers
Edmonds-Woodway senior Yukino Parle earned a second-place medal in the 3A girls 1,600 meters with a personal-best time of 4:56.47. She finished 0.99 seconds behind North Central freshman Allie Janke. It was the fifth state medal and third two-top state finish for Parle, who won the 3,200 meters state title in 2016 and placed second in the event last year.
Two-time defending state champion Taylor Roe placed sixth in a talent-laden 4A girls 1,600 meters race with a time of 4:59.42. The Lake Stevens junior, who has seven state titles between track and cross country, was one of four runners who entered the race ranked among the top 100 girls in the nation.
Mountlake Terrace junior and defending state champion Brandon Bach placed third in the 2A javelin with a mark of 183-10.