Tribe of Falcons to compete at bi-district

South Whidbey senior Kendra Warwick hands off the baton to senior Allie Vanbenschoten during the Falcons’ three-way home meet March 31. Warwick

At this point, South Whidbey track and field’s goal is simple: advance as many athletes through each round of postseason competition as possible. The Falcons will have plenty of opportunities to do just that this week at the bi-district meet May 19 and 21 at King’s High School in Seattle.

Thirty-one chances to be exact.

The tribe of Falcon athletes, 15 girls and 16 boys, are hoping to qualify for the class 1A state championships May 26-28 at Eastern Washington University. They advanced to the bi-district meet after a strong performance at districts May 12 and 14 at Lynden Christian, where the girls team placed second overall.

Leading the way for the girls was junior Bailey Forsyth and senior Allie Vanbenschoten, who won the 200-meter dash and 300 hurdles, respectively. Forsyth and Vanbenschoten, both returning state competitors, were the only two athletes on the team to win individual titles. Helping the girls to their strong finish were sophomore Sophia Nielsen (third, 100-meter hurdles and long jump), senior Mallorie Mitchem (third, pole vault) and sophomore Elizabeth Donnelly (third, 800).

The girls 4×100 and 4×400 relay were also district champions. The 4×100 team made up of Nielsen, Forsyth, freshman Alexandra Kurtz and sophomore Mikayla Hezel. Their time of 50.46 seconds is the second fastest mark in the state.

“That was a big deal,” said Falcon head coach Mark Eager. “It’s all about moving them through and right now we have a chance at getting a lot of different girls through.”

“This is the time you put those marks out there,” he added.

Forsyth will be the busiest bee among the girls team starting Thursday, after qualifying to compete in the 200, 4×100, 4×400 and 110 hurdles. Forsyth narrowly missed claiming a medal at the 2015 state championships by placing 10th overall in the 100. She’s hoping it doesn’t slip through her fingers this time around.

“I’m in a good spot for all my events,” Forsyth said. “The bi-district meet is probably the most fun but also the most stressful because this is the one where you determine whether you go to state or not.

“I like the stressful environment,” she added.

Senior Evan Mellish led the boys with a second place finish in the 800, while  freshmen Matthew Simmons (200) and Kris Dixon (200, 110 hurdles) placed third in their respective events. The boys 4×100 relay, composed of Simmons and seniors Xavier Wilson, Kyle Chambers and Tanner Lobdell won their race after running the four laps in 44.96 seconds.

Lobdell, who placed second in the 400 last season at state, was unable to compete as an individual due to an injury.

Simmons, like Forsyth, will compete in multiple events in the hopes that one or more will be his ticket to state.

“Doing multiple events at the very end, it feels good,” Simmons said. “I just try to be as fast as (Lobdell).”

The accomplishment of sending 31 athletes to bi-districts is something Eager isn’t taking lightly.

“It shows a lot of depth that the kids have,” Eager said. “This is the most consistent group of kids as far as being apart of the team, showing up for practice, doing their workouts and now it’s showing.”

“It feels like the good old days when we won a state title and district titles,” he added, referring to when the Falcons won a team title in 2004.

Eager credited the Falcons’ success to their attitude and willingness to learn and improve. Among the Falcons he’s been most impressed with this season are Forsyth, Simmons, Mellish, Kurtz, senior Mallorie Mitchem sophomore Mikayla Hezel and juniors Nash McCarroll and Chase Barthlett. Barthlett, who competed at 285 pounds in the class 1A state wrestling championships in February, improved his personal best in the shot put by a foot in the district meet.

“Chase Barthlett has really improved in the shot put,” Eager said. “He’s a kid that’s really come on.”

Eager also highlighted the Falcon pole vaulters, led by Mitchem and coached by Shauna Davies, as having success on the season.

Eager said that as many as 12 girls and seven boys could qualify, including alternates. The top four placers in each event advance to state.