2022 Track Preview: Girls Hurdlers

The 2021 track season was one of most the unique sports seasons we will ever witness in the history of Washington state high school athletics.


Like any of the sports seasons during the pandemic, it was a year with no state competition, leaving out an opportunity for the best of the best athletes to compete for glory and fulfill their legacies as Washington's best.


While those opportunities for some were put to a pause, the 2021 track season will forever be remembered as one of the most historical ones in state history, particularly on the distance side.


A new era of hurdler coverage makes its debut this spring at The Runner WA, and I'm beyond thrilled to learn more and more about all the great hurdlers our state has to offer. With that being said, here is your first look at the top girl's hurdlers to watch for this spring.

 

Kara Mattson, Prairie

Prairie's Kara Mattson competing in the long jump. Photo courtesy of Prairie High School athletics.

Very few athletes are as dominate in one or two events, but for those who can do so in four events are just another breed. One of those includes Prairie's Kara Mattson. The Falcons top athlete last spring completed an undefeated meet record not only in the 100- and 300-meter hurdles, but also in long and triple jumps as Mattson went on to win four Greater St. Helen League titles to cap off her junior year. Mattson ran lifetime bests of 14.93 seconds in the 100 hurdles, second fastest returning mark, and 45.79 in the 300 hurdles, the top overall returning time this season. She's also the top returning triple jumper at 37 feet, 10.75 inches and second in long jump at 17-11. This indoor season, Mattson completed two top-five finishes at the Spokane High School Invite in the long and triple jumps and then was 13th in the 60 hurdles in prelims.


JaiCieonna Gero-Holt, Emerald Ridge

JaiCieonna Gero-Holt waiting her turn to jump in the high jump at the USATF Indoor Championships on Feb. 27, 2022, at The Podium in Spokane. (Kim Spir/DyeStat)

One of the most exciting athletes we will get to watch this season hasn't even hit the track yet in a high school uniform is JaiCieonna Gero-Holt. The soon-to-be hurdle phenom is without a doubt the best overall athlete in Washington heading into 2022 having already competed on the national stage with tons of success. Gero-Holt most recently competed at the USATF Indoor Championships in Spokane this last month in the high jump where she finished tied for eighth with jump of 5-10.75 and was of one of the few high schoolers to be among a field of world-class athletes. Last summer, Gero-Holt was the Washington State Combined Events champion scoring a personal best 4,941 points behind four wins in the 100 hurdles, shot put, high jump, and long jump. Her win in the 100 hurdles is a personal best in a time of 14.87, the fastest returning time in Washington this season. Gero-Holt started the 2022 season at the Spokane High School Invite winning the high jump, a second-place finish in shot put, then third in the 60 hurdles.


Kaiha Gayles, Fife

No one is as eager to get back out on the track to compete for a state title than Kaiha Gayles. The 2019 third-place finisher in the 2A 100 hurdles comes into her senior season with lots of momentum after completing an undefeated hurdle racing record her junior year and also won three 2A South Puget Sound League titles in the 100 hurdles, 300 hurdles, and long jump to lead the Lady Trojans to a league title over Enumclaw. Racing for High Voltage Club during the summer, Gayles came away with two second place finishes at the USATF Pacific Northwest Youth Championships, running a season best 14.96 in the 100 hurdles and a jumping 17-10.5 in the long jump. She then competed at the USATF National Junior Olympic Championships as she placed 34th in the 100 hurdles and 31st in the long jump.


Olivia Conklin, Hazen

Hazen's Olivia Conklin racing in the 100 hurdles. Photo courtesy of Olivia Conklin.

Just like Emerald Ridge's Gero-Holt, Olivia Conklin is another gifted all-around athlete who excels in multiple events. The Northern Arizona commit was the runner-up in the heptathlon at the Washington State Combined Events Championships last summer with a personal best total of 4,311 points behind some second-place finishes in the 200, 800, and long jump. Conklin then went onto compete at the USATF National Junior Olympic Championships where she finished sixth in the heptathlon with a score of 4,235. While racing for Hazen during the school season, Conklin went undefeated in the 100 hurdles and led the Highlanders to numerous wins in both the 4x100 and 4x400 relay. As one of the few athletes with state experience, Conklin was a member of Hazen's 4x400 relay team as a freshman in 2019 that placed fourth at 4A state championships.


Josie Settle, Kelso

A really good first season of high school track for Josie Settle shows what the future holds for this Kelso standout athlete. Last spring, Settle was the runner-up in the three events as the GSHL District Invite, including a personal best run in the 300 hurdles, clocking 47.13, and then was first in the high jump. Just like some of the athletes on here, Settle is another talented multi-athlete as she took first overall at the AAU Region 2A Qualifier in Boise with a personal best score of 3,894 behind four first place finishes in the 200, high jump, long jump, and triple jump.


Others to watch for:

Shanthi Hall, Issaquah

Grace Twiss, Evergreen

Cassidy Haddad, Central Valley

Heather Vanderbeek, Sedro-Woolley

Kylie Roozen, Eastmont

 

Note: The 2022 Track Preview was compiled by The Runner WA's cross country and track and field analyst Keenan Gray.

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