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State Track Preview: Five girls events to watch for

A look at the top events to watch for at the 2023 State Track and Field Championships

Emerald Ridge's JaiCieonna Gero-Holt won three state titles at the 4A state meet last spring in the 100 hurdles, long jump and high jump at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

The 2023 Washington State Track and Field State Championships kick off this Thursday, May 25, and run through Saturday, May 27, at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma and Zaepfel Stadium in Yakima.

Here are the top five events to watch for at each respective meet:


Gero-Holt Eyes Mary Moore's High Jump Record

A year since her amazing state debut, Emerald Ridge's JaiCieonna Gero-Holt is back for more - perhaps even a state record.

The state's top athlete will look to defend her titles in long jump and 100 hurdles, but one event she'll be dialing in the most is high jump.

Gero-Holt boasts a personal best clearance of 6 feet, 3/4 inches from her freshman year, and while she's yet to hit that mark this season, the sophomore has been preparing for months to clear 6-2 and is on the cusp of doing so.

With that said, former Issaquah great Mary Moore's high jump state record of 6-1 is in possible jeopardy this weekend.

The weather will be playing in Gero-Holt's favor this weekend, providing her an opportunity to take down the 40-year-old state meet record.

3A Pole vault Trio Chasing History

All eyes will be on Mt. Tahoma's football field when the greatest trio of pole vaulters take centerstage for Friday's 3A competition.

Both Capital's Hana and Amanda Moll put on a clinic last year, with Amanda taking the win in 14-6, smashing Chloe Cunliffe's state meet record of 14 feet, and Hana finishing second at 14 feet. Just right behind them was Bainbridge sophomore Ella McRitchie, finishing third at 13 feet.

This year, Hana and Amanda continued to re-write the records book, becoming the first female prep athletes to ever clear 15 feet in pole vault. McRitchie surpassed the 14-foot barrier for the first time in her career this last weekend.

The possibility of seeing three pole vaulters go over 14 feet in the same state meet is rather unheard of, but if there's any athletes that could do it, it's these three right here.

Atkins Leaping Into Record Books

Federal Way's Cassandra Atkins drew plenty of attention when she won the 4A triple jump title last spring as a sophomore. This season, she continues to amaze the crowd with her leaping abilities.

Two weekends ago, Atkins arguably had the greatest meet of her young career, hitting marks of 20-0.75 in long jump and 41-2.5 in triple jump to set new lifetime best performances.

Similar to last year, Atkins enters the state meet with all the momentum in the world, all while eyeing down a pair of state meet records.

Both the long and triple jump records could fall this weekend if everything goes according to plan for Atkins. The long jump mark currently sits at 20-1.75 by Shorecrest's Wurrie Njadoe in 2016, while the triple jump mark is at 41-10.25 by Chinne Okoronkwo of Mountlake Terrace in 2015.

Lyons Looks to Become Triple Crown Queen

Similar to Sehome's Jake Andrews, Tahoma's Brooke Lyons presents herself an opportunity to claim the sprint triple crown on the 4A side.

The Washington State University bound sprinter currently leads all 4A athletes in the 100 (11.59), 200 (24.71) and 400 (55.01) heading into the state meet.

Last state meet, Lyons only competed in the 100 and 200, as she won the 200 but fell to Federal Way's Esther Akinlosotu in the 100.

The addition of the 400 this season has been an adjustment for Lyons but has proven to be one, if not, her best event this year. She will be challenged though not just in the 400, but the 200 as well with Mt. Si's Hailey Weir and Curtis' Ava Simms in both races.

No 4A girl has completed the sprint triple crown since Kamiak's Heather Hetzer in 2001.

Skyline Duo in Distance Races

Arguably the best distance duo in state history - Skyline's Rebecca O'Keefe and Anna Callahan - will be on the state start line together for the very first time (in track) for what should be an entertaining 1,600 final.

O'Keefe leads the way with a personal best time of 4:41.37 that ranks fifth in the nation, with Callahan not far behind at 4:45.29, sitting in 14th. The two will likely score 18 points in Thursday's final, but it's up in the air as to who takes the win.

Aside from the 1,600, O'Keefe will also race the 3,200 on Saturday, while Callahan will compete in Friday's 800 prelim in hopes of qualifying for Saturday's final.


Baker Aims for Another Sweep

Braelyn Baker's wide array of talents were on full display last state meet at Eastern Washington University when she took home four state championships in three event areas.

With the Bear Creek junior slated to compete in the same four this weekend in Yakima, she will be the overwhelming favorite again based on another career year in sprints, hurdles and long jump.

Three of the events Baker will race in will also be on state record watch. She brings personal best times of 11.65 in the 100, 23.61 in the 200 and 42.60 in the 300 hurdles - all of which are under the current 1A state meet records times in those events.

Foster's LaShaunda Fowler holds the 100 and 200 record, running 11.92 and 24.45 back in 1996, and Cascade-Leavenworth's Megan Franza holds the 300 hurdles record, running 43.72 in 1995.

Coleman Peaking at Right Time in Discus

This will be the second year in a row that the small school meet will feature the state's top discus thrower. Last year it was Rainier's Jeremiah Nubbe for 2B boys; this year it's King's' Adrianna Coleman for 1A girls.

The California-Berkeley bound thrower is looking to redeem herself from last year's second-place finish with a hopeful state title and record-setting performance.

Coleman's personal best throw of 148-4 was thrown last weekend at her district meet and is within seven feet of Kalama's Cathy Schmidt state meet record mark of 155-2 set in 2001.

One More State Record for Thomas

DeSales' Morgan Thomas already checked off one box when she took down the 1B state meet record in discus last spring, throwing 131-5. This year, she's looking to add the shot put meet record.

Safe to say it's been a season of improvements for Thomas in the shot put this season as far as consistency. While she's only thrown a season best effort of 38-10.5 - a inch shy of her PR - her throws have been ranging from 36 feet to 38 feet in different meets.

Trout Lake's Liz Fink's 38-10.25 mark currently stands at the top of the list from the 2019 state meet.

McLaughlin goes for 400/800/1,600

The Dragons are putting together interesting strategies to try win another 2B state team title. One of them is running Josie McLaughlin in the 400, 800 and 1,600.

McLaughlin won both the 800 and 1,600 last spring as a freshman. As a favorite in both events again this year, she now adds on the 400 and could surprise some folks despite having a slower seed time than Okanogan's Afton Wood.

Just like Shawn Jones for the St. George's boys, McLauhglin is at her best in the 800 and is on the cusp of taking down Lisa Schaures' meet record time of 2:16.6 when she ran for Toutle Lake in 1993.

Highly Contested 1A 4x400 Relay Race

It's the one race every track and field fan looks forward too. This year's 1A final could put fans on the edge of their seats because of how close it could be.

As of now, the top 10 teams in the state are within seven seconds of each other, with Naches Valley at the front of it all in 4:09.01.

Just right behind the Rangers are Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls (4:10.82), Lynden Christian (4:11.03), Castle Rock (4:12.80) and Cashmere (4:12.98).

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