Evan Thomspon / The Record                                South Whidbey track and field athletes practice sprinting on Thursday afternoon. From left to right: Serena McLain, Leanne Robbins, Sophia Nielsen, Grace Complita and Mikayla Hezel.

Evan Thomspon / The Record South Whidbey track and field athletes practice sprinting on Thursday afternoon. From left to right: Serena McLain, Leanne Robbins, Sophia Nielsen, Grace Complita and Mikayla Hezel.

Athletes focus on earning medals, state berths, breaking records | SPRING SPORTS PREVIEW

South Whidbey seniors Mikayla Hezel and Sophia Nielsen both left the 2017 1A track and field championships wanting more.

A dropped baton prevented Hezel’s 4×100-meter relay team, one of the best in the state, from earning a medal — again.

It also happened at state in 2016

“This year, no dropping the baton,” Hezel said.

Tripping on the final hurdle in the prelims of the 100-meter hurdles cost Nielsen the chance of becoming the first Falcon in at least the past 15 years to finish with four state medals. She came home with three in the triple jump (third), 300-meter hurdles (seventh) and long jump (eighth).

But first they have to make it back to the state championships. They want as many of their teammates to join them as possible.

“The main goal is to make it to May, state,” Hezel said.

Nielsen is one three returning placers from the 2017 season, the other two are seniors Romey Rohde (seventh, pole vault) and Emma Barker (eigith, pole vault).

The Falcons sent a total of 16 athletes to state in 2017, while both the boys and girls teams won Cascade Conference championships and finished third in the 1A bi-district championships.

Nielsen will continue competing in four events. She’s currently deciding whether to pursue pole vaulting and drop one of her other events; athletes are allowed to do only four at meets.

“I’m honestly so excited for this season,” Nielsen said. “I’ve been waiting for this season since freshman year. Because it’s senior year and your last year running for South Whidbey.”

Rohde has his eyes set on breaking the school record of 13 feet, set by Chris Ford in 2000.

His career-best mark is 12 feet, nine inches.

“I’m really just caring about breaking the school record and getting on the record board,” Rohde said. “…I’m just hoping my technique will follow through and come, and then let the process work itself out.”

Hezel has yet to win a medal at state. She hopes that glory will come in either one of her individual races or a relay team.

The 4×100 team lost Bailey Forsyth, who earned seven state medals in four years, to graduation. Hezel is hopeful another sprinter will be able to take her place, join herself, her sister Karyna Hezel and junior Alexandra Kurtz to help keep the relay team within reach of a top-eight finish.

Junior Kris Dixon is another potential medalist. He qualified in the 110-meter hurdles and 300-meter hurdles.

“I’m looking forward to going as far as I can this year,” Dixon said. “I want to go to the top. I want to get a medal.”

Head coach Mark Eager said the focus for training this year is pivoting slightly. Instead of emphasizing the importance of improving individual times and breaking personal bests, Eager wants the kids to improve their character and mental fortitude.

The rest will fall into place, he said.

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