TACOMA — When Lake Stevens High School track and field coach Jeff Page wakes up each morning, he looks in the mirror, sees an unwanted mustache staring back at him, sighs and thinks to himself, “I wanna take that off.”
He can’t, though, and he can thank his boys 4×100-meter relay team for that.
The Vikings’ lead-off runner, Sergio Pelayo, approached his coach before last year’s state meet and had a proposition: If the Lake Stevens 4×100 team set a school record, would Page grow a mustache?
It was an easy decision for Page.
“School records get broken at the state meet,” Page said. “I figured I’d grow a mustache and a week later at the awards (banquet) I’d shave it off.”
That’s not quite how things went down, though. The Vikings didn’t get their record last year, but they hit the mark on the first day of the Wesco 4A Divisional Meet on May 8.
Nearly a year later, Pelayo didn’t forget the wager.
“We broke it and I was like, ‘You gotta do it.’ And he wasn’t gonna do it,” Pelayo said. “So I was like, ‘You have to live it up, dude. You have to live up to it.’”
That forced Page to rock the mustache until June 6, nearly a month rather than the week he thought he was getting himself into.
But after this weekend’s state track and field championships at Mount Tahoma High School, Page isn’t too down on the mustache anymore.
The Vikings’ relay team — which features senior Matthew Zehrung and juniors Skyler Reyna, Cameron Mefford and Pelayo — blazed around the track in 42.45 seconds Saturday to win the Class 4A state title and once again break the school record.
“I look in the mirror everyday and I say, ‘I hate this thing.’ And my wife really hates it,” Page said with a laugh. “But in exchange for a state championship in the 4×100, I’d say it’s pretty worth it.”
Lake Stevens edged second-place Kent Meridian by 0.17 seconds and is believed to be the first 4A boys team from Snohomish County to win the 4×100.
“From halfway through the season when they kinda saw how their times stacked up around the state, they just started believing,” Page said. “Those are four of the most competitive kids that I’ve ever seen. Each one of them individually is not super, super fast.
“… Winning the 4×100, winning the sprint relay at state is not something I thought a bunch of Snohomish County kids from Lake Stevens were maybe ever gonna do. It’s pretty cool.”
The quartet ran in the middle of the pack for the front half of the race, then Cameron Mefford scorched his way toward the front during the third leg. Zehrung brought it home with a strong closing stretch.
“It’s huge,” Pelayo said. “Winning a state title is huge, and beating our own record after setting it, that’s awesome, man. It’s crazy.”
Page credited sprints coach Nick Page for having the relay team prepared and instilling confidence in the group.
Pelayo said the group was confident heading in but it was still a little nerve-wracking.
“I’m not gonna tell you it wasn’t,” Pelayo said. “It was scary, but we just had to believe in ourselves. All season we’ve been going strong. You come this far, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.”
And speaking of once-in-a-lifetime, how does Jeff Page’s mustache grade out on a scale of one to 10?
“Ten for sure,” Pelayo said. “It’s just gotta come in a little thicker, but for sure a 10.”
GLACIER PEAK SPRINTER WINS 400 TO COMPLETE COMEBACK JOURNEY
Glacier Peak junior Ethan Willems capped his spectacular comeback season with a pair of top-three state medals, including a dominant victory in his feature race.
The standout sprinter, who missed all of last season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, claimed the 4A boys 400-meter state title in a blistering time of 47.89 seconds. He made the rainy conditions look nonexistent with his blazing speed, crossing the line 1.14 seconds ahead of his nearest competitor.
“He ran a great race in less than ideal conditions — far from it,” Glacier Peak sprint coach Zach Nelson said. “So for him to do that, and obviously just the whole journey that he’s been on since his injury, that was the goal right there. … It’s remarkable coming back from an injury.”
Willems’ path to the top of the state podium was filled with adversity.
Two years ago, his stellar freshman campaign ended in disappointing fashion after he was disqualified in the 400-meter state finals for stepping outside his lane.
Then there was the torn ACL he suffered during football the ensuing fall, which sidelined him for all of last year’s track season.
“It was hard,” Willems said. “(The end of) freshman year was really devastating, and then I was going to get back at it sophomore year, but then the injury happened and it was really hard. But I was determined to come back for junior year and win state. That’s what my goal was, so… (being) able to win feels great from where I came from.”
Willems bounced back from injury with a superb season this spring, posting six 400-meter times under 49 seconds and two under 48 seconds. There were just two other sub-49 times in the state this season, regardless of classification.
Willems’ winning time Saturday came within 0.05 seconds of the personal-best 47.84 he ran in Friday’s preliminaries.
“I felt good in prelims,” he said, “so I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to push it all the way through.’”
Willems also took third place in the 200 meters Saturday with a time of 22.32 seconds, finishing 0.16 seconds behind state champion Christopher Penn of Auburn Mountainview. Willems had only an hour of rest between his 400 victory and third-place 200 finish.
“To come back and place third in the 200, that’s a testament to his skill and the kind of athlete he is,” Nelson said. “He competed great today.”
MOUNTLAKE TERRACE SENIOR BECOMES TWO-TIME STATE CHAMP
A year after falling just short of a second state title in the 2A javelin, Mountlake Terrace senior Brandon Bach needed only one throw to set a mark the rest of the field couldn’t touch.
As rain poured down on Bach and his competitors, the senior hurled the javelin 183 feet, 2 inches on his first attempt to claim his second state title in the event.
“Usually the first throws are always the best. I was really happy that I started out with a 183,” Bach said. “If I did anything less than that, I don’t know if I would have done any better.”
Bach took home the 2A javelin title as a sophomore with a mark of 187-10. He finished third as a junior.
“Coming here for a third time is definitely an amazing experience,” Bach said. “I’m happy I got to go with my team. I’m really proud of my teammates and what they accomplished here. Just overall, over the last couple years, this has been an amazing experience. If anyone ever wants to come here, just work your hardest.”
SHOREWOOD HURDLER CLAIMS FIRST STATE TITLE
Shorewood junior Jonathan Birchman beat Lincoln’s two-time state runner-up, Marcus Williams Jr., by 0.51 seconds, with a personal-best mark of 38.27 to win the Class 3A 300 hurdles.
The junior topped his previous personal best by 0.77 seconds.
“I was just really happy. I wanted it,” Birchman said.
Birchman closed in on Williams down the stretch and used a final burst to pass the Lincoln senior.
“I was just trying to out-kick him,” Birchman said. “I didn’t know if I could catch him in the last 100, but when we hit that third-to-last hurdle, I started gaining on him, and I just kept pushing from there.”
Birchman’s title-winning effort followed a second-place finish in the 100 hurdles.
“I really didn’t want to get second again,” he said.
OTHER TOP LOCALS
Lakewood senior Michai Harris placed third in the 2A boys 100 with a time of 11.20 seconds.
Harris, seniors Kaelin Nelson and Jordan Gonzalez, and junior Spencer Fleming helped the Cougars’ 4×100 relay team to a third-place finish with a mark of 43.31 seconds.
Snohomish sophomore Humoody Smith won the 200 boys ambulatory race in 28.34 seconds. It was the third ambulatory victory of the weekend for Smith, who took first place in the 400 and 100 races Friday.