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Track teams take it all
With more athletes scoring in more events that at any time in the past five years, the Falcon boys and girls track teams bettered runner-up performances from last year's district meet to win the 2002 edition Saturday.
Competing at Sultan High School, sophomore Katy McGillen won two events -- including an elusive javelin championship -- and junior Brandon Bilyeu took the boys 800- and 1,600-meter runs to lead their teams in terms of individual points. At the same time, South Whidbey relay teams took three crucial victories, while hurdlers, sprinters and throwers gave performances that made the meet one of the finest in school history.
With top entrants in more events and without last year's 2A bi-district champion Steilacoom at this year's uni-district meet, South Whidbey teams had the tools and leverage to beat conference rival Mount Baker for a championship the second week in a row. On the girls side, McGillen's first-place points in the 100 hurdles and her second career-best javelin throw in as many weeks helped spark the girls, as did a 100-meter victory for sophomore Claudia Gil-Osorio and a leg-numbing, state-qualifying 1,600 run by irrepressible senior Karen Schwager.
Schwager, who was a second- and third-pack runner in the mile two years ago, ran with the leaders and was one of four girls who either broke or tied a district record in the event held by South Whidbey's Sandy Gabelein for 20 years.
Schwager placed fourth in the event with a time of 5:14.2 -- a mark identical to that set by Gabelein in 1982 -- but wasn't even sure she had qualified for state until she saw her time. As it turns out, she had six seconds of breathing room.
"I didn't really know what time I was running," she said. "I was scared during the last 100."
She didn't have the only frightening moment. In the 4x200 relay, the Falcon girls almost saw their first-place points evaporate when a starting official claimed that two South Whidbey runners made a baton exchange outside of the legal zone. The official was quickly overruled by the meet's games committee, giving the team the win, though well after some runners from the second-place Sultan team had left the meet with first-place medals.
Other top performances for the Falcon girls came from senior Lindsay Binford, who came back in the 200 after being ill at last weeks conference championship to place third in the event; freshman Becky Gabelein in her third place 100 hurdles run and runner-up finish in the 300 hurdles; freshman Kimery Hern with her state-qualifying 109-foot, 11-inch toss in the discus; and the winning 4x100 team of Gil-Osorio, Nicole Mock, Binford and Melissa Poolman. Schwager also qualified for state competetion in the 800 and 3,200, while McGillen and Caitlin Robinson earned their bus tickets to Cheney by placing second and third in the jump.
Drama in the boys meet came from the 4x100 team, which suffered a bobbled handoff between leadoff runner Nick Plastino and Andy Taylor, a miscue that cost them first place by 1/100th of a second. An unexplained disqualification against another team in the event had South Whidbey coaches worried for about 10 minute, until the penalty was assigned to Meridian.
In addition to two more dominating wins in the 1,600 and 800 by Brandon Bilyeu, the Falcons ran away with first-place points in the 100 with champion sprinter Nick Plastino, and in the 4x400 relay, which was powered by Plastino, Bilyeu, Andy Wills and Joe Candelario. Wills and Candelario also used their quarter-mile skills to place second and third in the open 400, with Wills dashing to the first sub-50 second time by a Falcon in the past decade. Candelario was also third and a state qualifier in the 800, an event he did not start running in earnest until April. Later in the meet, it was Wills and Plastino who made things exciting in the 200 as they placed third and second, respectively.
In the field, Kyle McGillen and Travis Tornga each soared to 5-10 marks in the high jump to take second and third places and earn trips to state. Across the field in the javelin area, senior Brandon Hern continued an amazing rookie season as a varsity thrower, taking second on a 156-10, personal-record throw that was just one foot short of the winning mark set by Meridian's Jesse Alderson.
The Falcons head to Cheney Thursday to compete in the 2A state track and field championships.