Falcon boys and girls take third at Westling Invite

Cooper Nichols of South Whidbey clears 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump. Nichols missed placing in the high jump by two inches. First place was split by the next four jumpers at 5 feet, 6 inches.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Cooper Nichols of South Whidbey clears 5 feet, 4 inches in the high jump. Nichols missed placing in the high jump by two inches. First place was split by the next four jumpers at 5 feet, 6 inches.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

The sun finally had a breakout day on South Whidbey, and so did the boys and girls track teams at the 28th annual Westling Invitational.

Both teams finished in third place, an improvement from last season’s fifth-place finish for the boys team.

South Whidbey’s boys team scored 94 points and the girls team scored 80.

“Our goal was to finish in the top three,” said South Whidbey head track-and-field coach Doug Fulton. “And both boys and girls did, so we’re happy.”

Falcon senior long- and triple- jumper Will Hallberg was the boys team’s top scorer. Hallberg won the long jump with a leap of 21 feet, 11.5 inches. He also won the triple jump with 44 feet, 11 inches.

“I was hot, and my legs felt a little gooey,” Hallberg said. “I wasn’t really used to that sort of weather, so it threw me off.”

Hallberg’s triple-jump mark was his third-best jump of the season and the long-jump mark his second-best.

He leapt past the competition. The second-place finisher in the long jump was 2 feet, 7.50 inches behind Hallberg, and the second-place finisher in the triple jump was 5 feet, 5 inches short of Hallberg’s mark.

Angelina Berger led the Falcon girls team two first-place finishes. The sophomore thrower won the discus and the shot put, and hit career marks in each. Berger won the discus with a throw of 109 feet, 9 inches, and the shot put with a throw of 35 feet, 2 inches.

“I want to be in the 40s [in the shot put],” Berger said.

After that goal, Berger aims are farther than her throws.

“I want to make it to state in all three of my events [shot put, discus and javelin],” Berger said. “And I want to finish in the top eight in at least one of those events.”

Berger also finished third in the javelin with a mark of 98 feet, 3 inches — her second-shortest throw of the season.

Lillianna Stelling, one of South Whidbey’s top distance runners, was sick with the flu days before Saturday’s meet. Stelling ran the 1,600-meter run and the 1,600-meter relay. She finished fourth in the mile in 5 minutes, 51.40 seconds, and the relay team finished third in 4 minutes, 45.90 seconds.

“It didn’t go as I liked it to,” Stelling said of her races. “I had just gotten over being sick, and I feel like I could have run quite a bit faster.”

“After I was finished being sick, about on Thursday, I took a couple of runs and I thought I would be fine by Saturday,” Stelling added. “But during the race it was really hard to breathe and my legs felt really dead.”

Stelling said her goal for the 1,600 is to peak around 5 minutes, 20 seconds.

“Fulton says I could run a five-nineteen [5 minutes, 19 seconds],” Stelling said, “which would qualify me for districts. But I don’t know about state qualifying yet, because it’s really tough to qualify because the Northwest Conference is tough.”

Fulton said the team had several athletes out with illness, especially the distance runners on the girls’ squad.

“It’s something going through the team, right now.”

South Whidbey’s other distance runners performed well. Emily Martin and Nora Felt finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the 800-meter run. Martin finished in 2 minutes, 42.56 seconds, and Felt finished in 2 minutes, 43.05 seconds.

On the boys team, senior distance runner Ben Saari finished third in the 3,200 in 11 minutes, 20.18 seconds. He also finished fourth in the mile in 4 minutes, 45 seconds. The 1,600-meter relay team, which includes Saari, finished third in 4 minutes, 6.90 seconds.

Freshman thrower Nick French took third place in the javelin. He threw for 147 feet, 3 inches.

South Whidbey’s top hurdler, senior Sylvie Kaul-Anderson, finished fifth in the 100-meter hurdles. She placed in the top three at four of the past six meets.

“Sometimes it just takes a little bit of time to get into the rhythm,” Fulton said. “[Kaul-Anderson] is stronger than last year, she’s a little faster than last year. But, she’s just starting to get down the rhythm in the 100 [meter hurdles].”

“She’ll get there,” he added.

Five fewer teams than last year competed in the Westling Invite on Saturday. That doesn’t cut into the quality of competition, though. South Whidbey limits the field to three heats of a maximum 24 racers in lane events. Fulton said that meant more entries from less schools, rather than less entries from more schools.

“Numbers were down,” Fulton said. “Some of the schools that have been coming for years, like Ballard, their coach retired and the new coach didn’t want to come up.”

“And a lot of the schools, you’re going to start finding, are going to be unable to travel much because of financial hardships. Team’s are going to stay closer to home,” he said.

One school, Alberni District Secondary School, crossed the U.S.-Canadian border to compete in the Westling. Alberni traveled more than 200 miles from Port Alberni in Vancouver Island, B.C. to South Whidbey.

South Whidbey has two Cascade Conference meets remaining. The first is at King’s against Cedarcrest, Granite Falls and the host school. The second is at home against Coupeville.

With the regular season near its finish line, Fulton said his athletes are progressing the way he expected.

“You look at the times from the beginning of the season to the end, and other marks, and they’re coming along,” he said.


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