South Kitsap athletes shine at state meet

"After avoiding rain for most of two days, a symbolic rainfall commenced at Lincoln Bowl in Tacoma during the final race of Star Track XVIII.South Kitsap High School track coach Ed Santos could finally breathe easily and take his athletes out for ice cream.From the first day of practice for the 2000 season, Santos watched his team's girls and boys evolve into some of the state's finest competitors.During the two-day state meet last Friday and Saturday, it didn't go without rewards as the girls team placed eighth and boys team took ninth at the state meet.Senior Roger Cooper highlighted SK's season, narrowly defeating Lake Washington's Darion Powell for the 110-meter hurdles championship.Other top finishes for the Wolves came from the girls 800-meter relay team (second) and Angela Sampson in the discus (third).After placing second last year behind River Ridge's Keith Gill, Cooper entered this season determined to capture the state crown.Cooper was no mystery to competitors. He rolled through the season with easy victories but nearly met his match with Powell at the Pasco Invitational.Cooper said he knew he would meet Powell again at Star Track, and he prepared the final three weeks for that moment.Not that running the hurdles was fun, especially the night before Saturday's final.I hate it, Cooper said after his victory. I like it now, but I hated it last night. I couldn't go to sleep until 12 (midnight) and woke up at 7:20 just shaking. I just feel like something got lifted off my back.Cooper found himself trailing Powell after hitting the sixth hurdle, but he pulled even with him on the last hurdle and outsprinted him to win the race in 14.37 seconds.Cooper broke his own school record in the preliminaries in a time of 14.14 seconds.The girls 400 and 800 relay teams scrapped their way to the state meet without the service of senior Melissa Edwards, who nursed a sore hamstring at districts. Edwards triumphantly returned for both relays, and though the 400 unit just missed going to the finals, the 800 team with seniors Tiffany Robinson and Kristin Boyd and sophomore Teresa Schlafer went on to break the school record twice in one day en route to a school-best second-place finish.A state-placer a year ago, Edwards couldn't stay healthy for most of the season, but she was pleased with the end result.I couldn't be happier right now, Edwards said. Even if we didn't get first place, I'm happy. It's a good way to end a season, career.It was a good day for girls in the field events.Senior Angela Sampson hadn't picked up a discus until last season. But Sampson, an accomplished basketball player, is also the school recordholder in the discus.Before taking both talents to Weber State University this fall, Sampson had one more high school goal--a top-three state finish in the discus .She ended her career in dramatic fashion. In the preliminaries, she scratched her first two throws before qualifying on her third and final attempt with a throw of 132 feet and 2 inches.She continued her flare for dramatics in the final when she fouled and threw a measly 108 feet before landing her final throw of 134 feet to earn third place.Field events coach Dave Goodwin said he couldn't contain his nervousness.I was swallowing my tongue, he said. She doesn't normally scratch. I didn't know what to think, but she pulled it together and had a good last throw to get third.I got a little nervous when I scratched the first two, Sampson said. I was going to be mad if I scratched all the way out. I just wanted to get at least third and I did. Yeah, I'm pretty proud of myself. It's my second year, and placing sixth (last year) and third at state isn't bad.Junior Rachelle Cooper enjoyed her first trip to state with a sixth-place finish in the shot put.And she vows to be back next year to break the school record.Yeah, I'll be back, she said. I'm going for 40-something.After landing her personal best throw of 39-9, Cooper is only seven inches away from the school record.Next year Rachelle is going to have a great year if she sticks with track, Goodwin said.What was disappointing was senior Zach Sahlberg's sixth-place finish in the 800-meter run.One of the favorites to win after placing third as a sophomore and second as a junior, Sahlberg ran into a tough pack of runners and couldn't hold on to a lead in the final 50 meters. Sahlberg logged a time of 1:54.15.Usually when I go out like a 53 (seconds), guys don't run with me, but it seems like the whole pack went with me, so that messed me up mentally, Sahlberg said. It broke me up because when they stuck with me, I could feel them breathing on me and I was like, 'Ah, I don't know if I can hang.' One guy passed me and I was like all or nothing and I just lost it.To win it, I thought I had to run a 1:52. I didn't know two guys would get a 1:52 and two guys a 1:53. It was an unbelievable final.Sahlberg entered the final having broken his own school record with a time of 1:53.27 in the preliminary Friday.Santos said Sahlberg may have gone out too fast on the first lap, but you do what you feel like you have to do..He was kind of a marked man, Santos said. He was the guy to beat and ran a great race and just didn't quite have enough in the end. He pulled everybody else up to some super fast times.Sahlberg had a chance to redeem himself in the 1600 relay. He and Cooper, Marcus Meddles and A.J. Edwards woke up to the surprising news that they were competing in the finals even though they placed fifth in the preliminaries. Federal Way scratched in the prelims, but Santos wasn't aware of it until the next day.The Wolves placed fifth in the finals, but they registered the school's second all-time fastest time of 1:43.96.Though she didn't make the finals, senior Patty Blankenship worked hard all year to break 2:20 in the girls 800 and she finally got over the hump in the preliminaries with her school's second-best all-time effort of 2:18.9.Patty doesn't qualify in the 800 but she runs a 2:18.9, the second fastest time in school history, Santos said. What do you do? It was very good.Edwards was in tough company in the 200, having to compete against double-winner Anthony Buchanan of University and Brandon Sutton of Puyallup.But he held his own, placing seventh in a time of 22.41.. Junior Natalie Rasmussen would have liked to have run better at Star Track, but she had to settle with a seventh-place finish in the 3200 and 15th in the 1600...Senior Brenden Hamill barely missed the triple jump finals with a ninth-place finish."

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