Nelson, Oly relay team golden at Star-Track

Members of the Olympic High School team exult  moments after winning the Washington State 4A boys state title in the 4x100 meter relay held in Pasco Saturday.  From left, Andre Nelson, Jonell Hodge, Jarrell Nelson, Ryan Benko and Robert Hodge. - Photo by Rogerick Anas
Members of the Olympic High School team exult moments after winning the Washington State 4A boys state title in the 4x100 meter relay held in Pasco Saturday. From left, Andre Nelson, Jonell Hodge, Jarrell Nelson, Ryan Benko and Robert Hodge.
— image credit: Photo by Rogerick Anas

PASCO — The Olympic 4x100 relay team went to Star Track XXI with dreams of going where no other Trojans have gone before — the top of the medals podium.

Then those dreams became reality under a blazing eastern Washington sun at Edgar Brown Stadium as Andre Nelson, Ryan Benko, Jonell Hodge and Jarrell Nelson outran seven other teams in Saturday’s finals in 42.67 seconds for the school’s first state championship in track and field.

“It was tight, too tight,” Hodge said. “We wanted to beat our old record and get a 41, but at least we came out on top.”

“I noticed that Davis (Yakima) got their handoff going before us and then I saw the Skyview (Vancouver) guy and I just wanted to catch him,” Jarrell Nelson said. “Davis had the fastest time in the prelims (42.49 to Oly’s 42.57), but it’s different story when you actually race them.

“We just kept saying to each other ‘that we’ve got this. We’ve been doing it all year long and we can do it again.’ We looked good all the way to the end. I saw Ryan and Jonell catching up to guys and that felt good. If a team is a little bit ahead of us I felt I could catch them.”

Skyview’s Steve Keith came in second in 42.81, followed by Davis’s Alexis Love in 42.82.

Nelson, who came close with a second-place finish in the 100 in 10.95 seconds to hometown sprinter Leon Jackson’s 10.74, went out and won the Trojans’ first individual title in the 200 in 22.07 to the delight of his supporters who were wearing shirts provided by long-distance state qualifier Daniel Frederick emblazoned with the words “Jarrell’s Posse.”

“When I came off the corner I felt really good,” he said. “But I got in a panic because there was a guy next to me (Inglemoor’s Victor Cheng) so then I just relaxed and kept running. He was right next to me for a short period of time and then I pulled away from him.”

Nelson, a senior who missed going to state last year with a hamstring sprain, admitted he was bummed out when he didn’t win in the 100.

“It was my start,” he said, “it wasn’t that great then the rest of my race was good,” as he passed up five runners in the first 50 meters to fall in behind Jackson.

“I was disappointed that I didn’t win, but I got over it. The relay got me back up.”

The relay team got a little long-distance help from former coach Yogi Cargill who was in San Diego while on deployment with the Army Reserve and managed to talk to the team before its final race together.

“Yogi told us to run hard and run like we know how to and we’ll be champions,” Hodge said.

“And he was right,” Andre Nelson added.

“It was an excellent day for us at Star Track,” said OHS coach Joel Grindeland, whose boys finished tied with Shelton for fourth place in the team standings with 28 points. “We had expectations of finishing high in the 100 and we knew we were right there in the 200 and the 4x100 relay and those expectations were met.

“I’ve been with the program 16 years now and we’ve been close a lot. Now we’ve got something to put on the record board and that’s going to be the fun part.”

The Trojans three medals weren’t the only local hardware brought back to Silverdale.

Central Kitsap brought home two medals in the javelin events with junior Mike Custer taking fifth in the boys event and first-year senior thrower Joyce Geronimo taking seventh in the girls.

Custer, making his second-straight state appearance Friday afternoon after taking 10th last year, broke his personal best throw of 172 feet, 4 inches with a toss of 175-8.

“I wish I would’ve finished higher,” Custer said. “Fifth is alright because I know I didn’t work very hard this year in practice.”

Geronimo also had a new personal best Saturday which is all she set out to do.

“I was the first person to throw and I came in wanting to get my PR today,” she said. “I broke it in the second throw and then I was able to relax.”

Being in the first flight of throwers helped get Geronimo into the finals as the wind picked up and hindered the second flight.

“The girls in the second flight didn’t go as far,” she said.

n The CK girls 4x400 relay team was in second place until Shannon Gutierrez and Crystal Lundahl found themselves crossed up at the final handoff. Gutierrez couldn’t find Lundahl in the spot she thought she should be in lane 2 and had look for her in lane 4. “I was looking for where she should be and then I couldn’t see her,” Gutierrez said. The Cougars (Christine Murray, Niki Lesniak, Gutierrez, Lundahl) finished sixth in their heat in 4:06.63.

n Lundahl was still upbeat after coming in 16th place in the 800 in 2:25.01. “It was a good experience,” the junior said. “I want to come back next year and try again.”

n Frederick ran with the leaders in Friday’s 1,600 for the first two laps before being shuffled to the back to finish in 16th in 4:33.31. “I tried to push it in the second lap but my body just faded,” he said.

n CK’s Adam Roy was disappointed in not making the finals in the 4x100 relay after finishing third in the event last year. “It’s hard coming from where we were last year to not making the finals this year,” he said. The Cougars (Josh Perlow, Ryan Hansen, Peter Tait, Roy) finished their prelims heat in seventh in 43.45. “It was a good year. We surprised a lot of people just by being here.”

n Jolina Fanua finished her preps career at CK with an 11th place finish in the discus with a throw of 118-9.

n Hodge, running in the fastest prelims heat in the 100, finished eighth in 11.42 behind Bremerton senior Dominique Bryant’s 11.35.

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