CHENEY, Wash. — Pressure? Not for Ilwaco sprinter Alex Kaino.
This time last year he was atop the podium after winning the 300-meter hurdles at the WIAA state track meet.
Last weekend, he stepped up to the podium five times — retaining his 300 title, placing in the 100- and 200-meter finals, and enjoying a second-place win with his 1,600-meter relay buddies.
As Saturday’s light faded in Roos Stadium, the last steps he climbed in a Fisherman uniform were when WIAA officials announced that the Ilwaco boys had placed third overall. He joined many of those who had made it possible, including coaches Sarah Taylor, Dan Schenck and Thad McMullen.
Fishermen fans who had supported them rain or shine made their way onto the Eastern Washington University field, whooping and hollering with vigor.
Kaino’s teammates gave him the trophy to hold and shuffled the diminutive runner into the center for photos.
Coach Taylor, beaming with pride, noted that her senior sprinter’s humility was something she would miss.
“He has been a great leader,” she said. “He keeps everything organized. He is truly a team player. He works like crazy for everyone else — while he is working out twice a day.”
When the 2019 2B season rolled around, Kaino prepared for all his sprints while being focused on a 300 hurdles repeat. In his last run before state, he raced to 39.41 seconds, the only qualifier with a sub-40 time.
“It’s been good competition both years,” he said. “And the support I have received is the best — it has been more than anyone could ask. People like our fans do expect you to win, so it’s a little bit of pressure.”
Kaino won his heat at Cheney in 40.17 — even after knocking over the final hurdle — then prepared for the finals. As expected, Will Lane from Northwest Christian, who had been second last year, won the other heat in 40.09. They were almost side-by-side around the final curve when bad luck for one provided good luck for another.
“He clipped a hurdle and that gave me my edge,” Kaino admitted. His time was 39.28. Lane was second at 39.95.
Still, Kaino didn’t have long to celebrate or recover before he was back on the track for the 100 and 200. He’d had good runs in both, except for a nasty fall at the finish line of the heat earning second in 11.28 in his 100 heat, that scraped his arm and side.
He placed eighth in the 100 final in 11.72 (the winner was defending champion Brandon Montoya of Lyle-Wishram, in 11.28) and fourth in the 200 in 22.99 (winner, Montoya, 22.47), then joined 1,600 relay team members Brandon Kuhn, Parker Kaech and Colton McNabb to place second in a very competitive field. All the others are juniors.
While all four had strong races, that placing was probably earned by the lanky Kaech, who accelerated confidently down the back stretch to catch and pass other runners before the next-to-last turn. On the last leg, Kaino just couldn’t catch the Adna winner, whose team finished in 3:25.69 to Ilwaco’s 3:28.59.
Also scoring team points was Kuhn, who was fourth in the triple jump, leaping to 40-10. The winner, from Asotin, had a jump of 43:11 3/4. He also ran a heat in the 400, just off qualification.
Early in the meet, freshman Daniel Quintana sprinted home to place fourth in the 1600 meters in 4:31.30. The winner, Justin Roosma from Walla Walla Valley, was timed at 4:15.07.
Quintana also ran the 800, but did not advance. Afterward, as he waited for his team’s moment on the podium, he was looking forward.
“I will be back — and do better,” he said.
Ilwaco girls 10th
In the girls’ division, Ilwaco placed 10th. (Six teams receive trophies.)
Senior Ebby McMullen, also competing in her final events, placed third in the triple jump with 36-4 ¾ (the winner was returning champion Mattie Lagerway with 37-1 ¾), fifth in 100 hurdles at 16.43 (winner: Chewelah, 15.72) and seventh in the long jump with 16-3 ¾ (winner: Lagerway with 18-4 3/4).
Coach Taylor commended McMullen’s final season, which like others has been dogged by injuries.
“She has been sidelined a lot, but she just kept going,” Taylor said. “She is without question an excellent athlete — she’s not afraid to perform here.”
McMullen was ready to thank everyone who helped her.
“I love my school, and the administration, the teachers and coaches have been so supportive,” she said. “The community of Ilwaco is like nowhere else. You can’t replicate that kind of support. It’s nice to be part of something that is a lot bigger than myself.”
Also shining was sophomore Erika Glenn, who was fourth in the triple jump with 36-0, just about two feet more than her personal best, fifth in the 400 meters with 1:01.30 (winner, DeSales, 59.06) and seventh in the 200 with 27.11 (winner, Chewelah, 25.67).
McMullen and Glenn were joined by Tiana Ramsay and Estella Sheldon for the 1,600 relay, placing sixth in a time of 4:21.73. The winning team, St. George’s, finished in 4:09.32. In a tangled race, the next to last of the meet, Sheldon had to brush past a stationary runner who was lingering after handing over the baton ahead of her and Glenn had to vault another competitor who had collapsed with exhaustion at her handover.
Sheldon was on the podium earlier, placing eighth in the high jump with 4-10 (winner, Raymond, 5-6).
Sophia Marsh placed ninth in javelin. Abby Knopski, Elle Personius, Alyssa Marsh and Ramsey ran the 800 relay, but did not advance. Ramsey, Personius and Knopski combined with Tazlina Thomas in the 400 relay, but did not make the finals.