For a lucky few, it was the performance they’d been waiting for all season. For most of the other South Whidbey track and field athletes competing at the class 1A state championships May 26-28 in Cheney, it was the end of what has otherwise been a successful year.
Falcon senior Allie Vanbenschoten ran a career-best time of 46.28 en route to placing third in the 300-meter hurdles while junior Bailey Forsyth finished fifth and seventh in the 100 and 200 respectively. The girls 4×400-meter relay team consisting of Vanbenschoten, Forsyth, senior Kendra Warwick and sophomore Elizabeth Donnelly placed fourth.
Those were the only placers out of the 18 athletes who qualified for the state meet. The girls 4×100 team, which entered with the fastest time in 1A, was disqualified during prelims due to a botched handoff. Other qualifiers, such as sophomore Sophia Nielsen and senior 800-meter runner Evan Mellish were unable to advance past prelims.
It was during the second day of prelims, May 27, where team morale was shot down.
“With the exception of Bailey [Forsyth], everything kind of fell apart,” Eager said.
“I said [to the team] it’s a matter of turning it around,” he added. “So we woke up and I swear it was one good thing after another.”
Eager was most impressed with the 4×400 relay, which bounced back from a shaky prelim performance to finish fourth with a time of four minutes and six-seconds. All four girls set personal bests during their segments of the race.
“It was so emotional,” Eager said. “Not just that they did well, but how much they had to overcome in so little time. That’s what just blew me away.”
Much of the responsibility for righting the ship was placed on the shoulders of Vanbenschoten and Forsyth.
Despite barely being nudged out of the 100-meter hurdle finals by .03 seconds, Vanbenschoten was determined to make her mark in the 300-meter hurdles. After finishing third, she became a two-time placer in the event. She placed fourth in 2015.
Vanbenschoten was elated with her performance.
“I’m glad I’m leaving this year with my best year and how I wanted to end,” Vanbenschoten said. “I think as a team we did so good just all year-round.”
Forsyth, who earned the most medals out of all the Falcons (three), was equally satisfied. She ran the 100 in 13.02 seconds, while she finished the 200 in 26.70 seconds.
“For her to respond in her two individual events and have Allie run the way she ran and get third with a lifetime best mark in the hurdles, that’s the momentum those kids carried on,” Eager said. “After Bailey’s 200, she was absolutely exhausted.”
After placing second in 2015, Donnelly did not qualify for the 800-meter finals. Her teammates said her not making the finals was a result of a tough prelim heat. Despite having the seventh-fastest overall prelim time — two minutes and 22.8 seconds — she finished out of the top-two in her heat.
Vanbenschoten commended Donnelly for responding with positivity during the 4×400 relay, which helped the team claim fourth place.
Senior Hailey Simchuk competed in the discus but did not place in the top eight. She said her nerves were heightened due to the large scope of the event. She threw 99 feet, finishing 12th overall.
“I just gave it everything I had but I ended up hitting a pole [on my third throw],” Simchuk said.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day was the disqualification of the girls 4×100. The team consisted of Forsyth, Nielsen, freshman Alexandra Kurtz and sophomore Mikayla Hezel. The error occurred between Nielsen and Kurtz during the first leg of the race. The mistimed handoff led Kurtz out of the exchange zone and resulted in the disqualification.
The counterpart relay on the boys team made up of seniors Tanner Lobdell, Xavier Wilson, junior Nash McCarroll and freshman Matthew Simmons also failed to reach the finals after finishing fifth in its prelim.
“Our heat was really, really fast,” Lobdell said. “When I got the baton, it was just not enough. You had to get top-two or top-three.”
Despite not leaving with any hardware, Lobdell spoke highly of his teammates and the season they had, including the girls team winning a bi-district title May 21.
“Hands down this is the best year of track,” Lobdell said. “I’m happy I’m leaving this year and leaving with people who are going to carry the team and keep winning.”