Matt Simms photo — South Whidbey junior Sophia Nielsen advanced to the state track and field championships in four different events at the class 1A/2B bi-district championships on May 18 and 20 at King’s High School.

Falcons to send 16 total athletes to state track meet

South Whidbey junior Sophia Nielsen hopes to walk away from the class 1A state track and field championships this week with a medal draped around her neck.

She could earn as many as four.

At the class 1A/2B bi-district championship meet on May 18 and 20 at King’s High School, Nielsen accomplished what few others in the state have when she qualified for the state meet in four different events: 100-meter hurdles, 300-meter hurdles, long jump and triple jump. She’s one of 16 Falcons headed to Eastern Washington University on May 25 and 27.

“It was definitely exciting because I had been working for it all season,” Nielsen said. “…I’d love to get on the podium.”

Head coach Mark Eager called it a “rare” achievement. He’s been with the program since 2002 and could not recall another athlete from South Whidbey who has accomplished the same feat.

Nielsen’s efforts helped the girls team place third out of 14 teams. The boys also placed third. King’s claimed both the girls and boys team titles.

Other state qualifiers include: senior Bailey Forsyth (100-meter dash, 200-meter dash), junior Emma Barker (pole vault), junior Romey Rohde (pole vault), sophomore Caden Spear (100-meter dash), Dixon (110 hurdles, 300-meter hurdles), the girls 4×100-meter relay team and the boys 4×100-meter relay team.

Nielsen finished second in the 100-meter hurdles, second in the 300-meter hurdles, second in the triple jump and third in the long jump. She also set personal bests in the 300-meter hurdles (46.3 seconds) and triple jump (35 feet and one-half-inch). Nielsen’s marks are among the top eight in the state in all but the long jump, according to Athletic.net.

Nielsen reached the state championships in both the long jump and 100 hurdles in 2016, but failed to place in the top eight in either event. The state meet this week could be a big milestone in her career, she said.

“I want to be a competitor and I don’t want to just go to have fun,” Nielsen said. “That’s what I did last year.”

Pole vaulters Barker and Rohde are among the first-time qualifiers. They both battled through nerves during the bi-district meet to place second. Rohde’s mark at the meet, 12-9, is three inches from breaking the school record. It’s also the 11th-best mark in 1A this year. Rohde has his mind set on breaking the school record at state.

“If I’m able to get my form down, I think I can definitely break 13 (feet), ” Rohde said.

Barker finished behind King’s Emily Northery with a mark of 8-3. Her season best of 9-3 is just outside the top 10 at 12th.

“It was kind of a relief because it was really stressful,” Barker said. “…I don’t really care what happens (at state). I’m just happy that I made it.”

Spear, a first-year track athlete, finished the 100 in 11.6 seconds.

“I’ve worked very hard to get to this position,” Spear said. “I think if you work hard and do the program I’m doing, I think you can do it.”

Forsyth, who placed fifth in the 100 meters in the 2016 state championships, finished third at the bi-district meet and has the eighth-fastest time in the state (12.69 seconds). She also set a career best in the 200 meters.

“I’m just glad I get one more week to see a kid that I’ve watched compete since second grade,” Eager said.

The Falcon girls’ 4×100 team with Forsyth, junior Mikayla Hezel, sophomore Alexandra Kurtz and freshman Karyna Hezel faced some adversity on their way to a first-place finish. Eager said a protest between two other teams led to the disqualification of one team and required a redo of the race that the Falcons had just won.

“The elation of making it to state was completely erased and had to be earned again,” Eager said.

Forty-five minutes later, they won the event again and set a season-best with a time of 50.32 seconds. It is the third best time in the state behind Deer Park and Cle Elum-Roslyn.

Matt Simms photo — South Whidbey sophomore Caden Spear, a first-year track athlete, advanced to the state meet in the 100 meters with a third place finish at the bi-district championships.

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