TACOMA — Gifton Okoronkwo was nervous on the final day of his first state track and field meet.
But the Mountlake Terrace senior wasn’t on edge because it was time for him to perform. Okoronkwo had, after all, already wrapped up a state title in the Class 3A triple jump. Instead, Okoronkwo could barely watch as younger sister Chinne tried to match her brother with a triple jump title of her own.
Chinne Okoronkwo, a freshman, had the best mark heading into the final round of jumps, but she also had a hamstring that was bothering her. So, when Kelso’s Kiana Davis was the last competitor with a chance to overtake the leading mark, both Okoronkwos held their breath.
Fortunately for the hobbled Terrace freshman, Davis could not top Okoronkwo’s jump of 39 feet. 1/2 inch. That allowed Okoronkwo to skip her final jump and still claim what could be the first of many state titles in her high school career.
“I was terrified,” a relieved Gifton said when asked if he was nervous for his sister’s final jump. “She would have killed herself with that last jump.”
Fittingly, older brother fretting over little sis came a couple hours after Chinne, while competing in the pole vault, kept glancing across the track between attempts to see Gifton in the triple jump. Chinne only managed to see her brother jump once, but she happened to catch his winning mark of 46-71/4, which broke the school record by a quarter of an inch. A few minutes later, Chinne wrapped up a second-place finish in the pole vault by matching her season-best mark of 12 feet.
Two Okoronkwo siblings, two triple jump competitions, two titles.
Not bad considering neither competed at the state meet last year; Chinne because she was in eighth grade and Gifton because he was playing soccer for the Hawks.
“It’s really fun, especially since we both started high school track this year together,” said Chinne, who also finished sixth in Friday’s long jump. “It’s been really fun, but it’s kind of sad to see him go.”
Despite being younger, Chinne came into this season as the much more experienced track athlete, having participated in the sport for years. Gifton is still learning the nuances of his events.
“Not in the slightest,” Gifton said when asked if he could have imagined winning a title before the season started. “Before this, I was playing soccer. (Track is) completely new to me. I give my team a lot of the credit for helping me get this far. It’s been great having such a supportive team behind me.”
And even though he plays the role of big brother when it comes to worrying about his sister trying to compete through an injury, Gifton admits that when it comes to track and field, Chinne is “the real veteran here. She knows what she’s doing.”
“She helps me understand the lingo, she’s able to help me. it’s great,” he said. “We’ll video tape it and we’ll sit down as a family, we’ll watch it, we’ll tear me apart then we’ll bring me back up, we’ll give me tips. It’s great, it’s absolutely great.”
Mountlake Terrace coach Russ Vincent admits that he would have loved to have coached Gifton for more than one year, but he also understands how unique it was to have both Okoronkwo siblings win state titles in their one season together — in the same event, no less.
“It’s about as cool as it gets,” Vincent said. “It’s so much fun to have one of them out, let alone both of them. For Gifton to come on out his senior year after three years of soccer and accomplish what he did, and for Chinne to culminate her season with this win, and she was great in the pole vault, too — it’s pretty special.”
Neale wins title No. 7
Two days after winning the 1,600-meter run for the third time in four years, Glacier Peak senior Amy-Eloise Neale closed out her impressive high school career with another victory and another Class 3A state meet record, winning the a second straight 800 meter title with a time of 2:08.161
This was the third time in four years that Neale has won two individual state track titles. She won the 3,200 and 1,600 as a freshman and sophomore, switched to the 800 as a junior and won that, though a pulled hamstring in that victory kept her from running the 1,600 last year. Neale also won three cross country state titles.
“This feels amazing,” said Neale, who also anchored Glacier Peak’s 4×400 relay team that finished third. “I’m not going to lie, I was pretty nervous today. My hamstrings have been tightening up. They’ve been really, really tight the last couple of days so coming into the day I was really nervous the same thing was going to happen as last year.”
Neale’s 800 time not only broke the 3A meet record she set last year, it also matched the state meet record in all classifications. That distinction, however, did not last long.
Moments after the 3A race concluded, Camas sophomore Alexa Efraimson set a 4A and all-classification meet record with a time of 2:08.17. Neale finishes her career with the class 3A meet records in the 800, 1,600 and 3,200.
Neale’s Glacier Peak teammate Katie Bianchini finished second to North Central’s Katie Knight in the 3,200 with a time of 10:42.59, while Meadowdale’s Haley Suarez was third in 10:52.88.
Neale and Bianchini were part of a team effort that gave Glacier Peak a third-place finish in the 3A girls team standings.
Wesco rivals finish 2-3 in javelin
Monroe senior Ashley Alexander and Arlington junior Lyndsay Leatherman have had close battles all season in the javelin, and a week after Leatherman got the victory in the bi-district championships, Alexander was able to one-up her rival by finishing second in the 4A competition behind Walla Walla’s Maddie Sirmon. Alexander’s throw of 142 feet, 3 inches was a personal best and was a little more than two feet short of the winning mark. Leatherman’s third-place throw was 138-11.
In the boys 4A javelin, Arlington’s A.J. Passalacqua was fifth and Cascade’s Steven Gallardo was seventh.
Bartz second in 800
Archbishop Murphy’ Kristi Bartz spent her freshman year running sprints, but a move to the 800 has paid off in her sophomore season. A year after never competing in the event, Bartz finished second in the class 2A 800-meter run, establishing a personal best with a time of 2:16.25.
Down, but not out
Lynnwood freshman Jordyn Edwards was one of the favorites to win the 400, but while battling eventual winner, Bellarmine Prep’s Hannah Derby, down the home stretch, Edwards ran out of gas and crashed to the track just short of the finish. With some encouragement from the crowd, Edwards eventually got up and finished a distant eighth place. That wasn’t the end of Edwards’ day, however, because a few hours later, she ran a strong anchor leg for the Royals’ 4×400 relay team, moving her team from last place up to fifth in the final lap.
Other notable performances by local athletes
Snohomish senior Christian Linder finished fourth in both the 4A 100-meter dash (11.06) and 200 (22.31). On the 4A girls side, Edmonds-Woodway junior Djenne Dickens also had a good day in the sprints, finishing fifth in the 100 (12.53) and sixth in the 200 (25.72).
Jackson senior Robert Spencer was fourth in the 4A 400 (48.95), while Archbishop Murphy sophomore Isaac Westlund was fourth in the 2A 400 (49.96). Kellianne Calvin, a freshman from Snohomish, was third in the 4A high jump, just an inch off the winning jump of 5 feet, 5 inches.
Marysville-Pilchuck senior Lacey McClean finished fifth in the 3A 300 hurdles (46.44) and was ninth in the pole vault at 10-6. Arlington junior Jared Alskog finished third in the 3A 300 hurdles (38.70) finishing just behind the Kentridge duo of Kevin Hall and Bralen Westendorf.
Arlington was the top finishing local team in the 4A boys and girls competitions, with the boys team finishing eight and the girls ninth.
Herald Writer John Boyle: email@example.com.
2A/3A/4A State Championships
At Mt. Tahoma H.S.
Top local finishers
4A Local team scores: 8. Arlington 26, t-15. Cascade 15, t-15. Jackson 15, t-18. Snohomish 13, t-30. Lake Stevens 6, 33. Mariner 5.5, 34. Edmonds-Woodway 4.
100—4. Christian Linder (Sno.) 11.06; 400—4. Spencer Robert (J) 48.95; 300 hurdles—3. Jared Alskog (A) 38.70, 8. Kaleb Dobson (C) 39.63; 200—4. Christian Linder (Sno.) 22.31; Triple jump—16. Kaleb Dobson (C) 20-2.25.
3A Local team scores: 10. Shorecrest 22, 14. Mountlake Terrace 16, t-22. Oak Harbor 11, t-31. Shorewood 6, t-39. Glacier Peak 3, t-44. Stanwood 1, t-44. Marysville Pilchuck 1.
100—5. David Fan (SW) 11.10; 800—1. Carter Osborne (SC) 1:53.58; 3,200—6. Jon Rodeheffer (OH) 9:20.19, 13. Jack Pearce (MLT) 9:46.29, 14. Keenan Stephens (SW) 9:54.59; 1,600 relay—8. Shorecrest (names not reported) 3:28.21; High jump—2. Chris Hailer (OH) 6-6, 9. Alexzander Seymer (MG) 6-0, 13. Jonah Hoverson (SW) 5-10; Triple jump—1. Gifton Okoronkwo (MLT) 46-7.25, 6. Daryl Derbecker (GP) 43-5; Shot put—12. Dayne Herron (OH) 47-3, 14. Jeremy Foster (OH) 46-9.75, 15. Alfredo Diaz-rodriguez (MG) 45-11.75; Javelin—5. AJ Passalacqua (A) 172-5, 7. Steven Gallardo (C) 166-1, 9. Jacob Herzog (L) 164-2.
2A Local team scores: 19. Cedarcrest 11, t-22. Archbishop Murphy 9, 30. Lakewood 7, t-33. Sultan 5, 44. Granite Falls 1.
400—3. Luke Driscoll (C) 49.00, 4. Isaac Westlund (AM) 49.86; 300 hurdles—7. Andrew Stich (LW) 39.94; 800—8. Quinn Radbourne (C) 1:57.49; 200—6. Luke Driscoll (C) 22.35; 3,200—8. Logan Orndorf (C) 9:25.79.
Top local finishers
4A Local team scores: t-9. Arlington 22, t-29. Edmonds-Woodway 8, t-29. Monroe 8, t-29. Lynnwood 8, t-35. Snohomish 7, t-44 Jackson 2.
100—5. Djenne Dickens (EW) 12.53, 8. Madison Lichter (Sno.) 12.66; 400 relay—8. Edmonds-Woodway (names not reported) 50.04; 400—8. Jordyn Edwards (L) 1:19.26; 200—6. Djenne Dickens (EW) 25.72; 1,600 relay—5. Lynnwood (names not reported) 3:58.49; High jump—3. Kellianne Cavin (Sno.) 5-4; Javelin—2. Ashley Alexander (Mon.) 142-3, 3. Lyndsay Leatherman (A) 138-11, 9. Mikayla Pivec (L) 121-10, 16. Paityn Kaiser (LS) 101-5; Pole vault—8. Rebecca Carnevale (J) 10-6, 9. Emi Asuncion (J) 10-6.
3A Local team scores: 3. Glacer Peak 45, 7. Mountlake Terrace 26, 15. Shorecrest 12, t-17. Shorewood 10, t-17. Marysville Pilchuck 10, t-23. Meadowdale 8, 32. Oak Harbor 5, 36. Stanwood 3, t-40. Marysville Getchell 2, t-40. Everett 2.
100—6. Charity Ijiomah (SW) 12.57, 7. Amanda Klep (MP) 12.72; 400 relay—6. Marysville Pilchuck (names not reported) 49.44; 300 hurdles—6. Megan Ransom (SW) 46.75; 800—1. Amy-Eloise Neale (GP) 2:08.61, 7. Christina Wicker (OH) 2:20.68; 200—5. Charity Ijiomah (SW) 25.99, 8. Amanda Klep (MP) 26.58; 3,200—2. Katie Bianchini (GP) 10:42.59, 3. Haley Suarez (M) 10:52.88, 6. Alex Laiblin (OH) 11:17.32; 1,600 relay—3. Glacier Peak (names not reported) 4:00.19, 6. Stanwood (names not reported) 4:01.59; Triple jump—1. Chinne Okoronkwo (MLT) 39-0.50, 6. India Smith (GP) 35-6.75, 7. Mikayla Ingram (GP) 35-4; Shot put—6. Rosie Sittauer (E) 35-4, 12. Hailee Malins (MLT) 33-9.50, 13. Anglica Cleveland (MP) 31-8.25; Pole vault—2. Chinne Okoronkwo (MLT) 12-0, 6. Jenna Hess (GP) 11-3, 9. Lacey McLean (MP) 10-6.
2A Local team scores: 22. Archbishop Murphy 8, 29. Lakewood 6.
800—2. Kristi Bartz (AM) 2:16.25.