Sports

TRACK | Relay propels Wolves' boys to first-place finish

SHELTON — South Kitsap’s 1,600-meter relay team did not hear the announcement, but they knew what was at stake.

As the public address announcer at Highclimber Stadium proclaimed, a victory in that event — the final race of Saturday’s 53rd Shelton Invitational — would give the Wolves their first boys team title since 2007.

It was an opportunity they were not about to squander.

South’s team of Adam Gascoyne, Zach Sleigh, Mason Villarma and LaForrest Church finished first in 3 minutes, 24.89 seconds to outlast Central Kitsap (3:27.96). That also proved to be the difference in the 52-team field as the Wolves edged the Cougars and Hoquiam — both schools were second with 44 points — with 49 points.

Church attributed the result to knowing they need to win the race to take first. He credited his teammates, each of whom had run at least one other race, for overcoming fatigue and the rainy conditions.

“We ran a spectacular race,” said Church, adding that the handoffs were stellar. “That’s the time we ran at state last year.”

Once Church crossed the finish line, South co-coaches Kathy Ballew and Paul Zimmer raced onto the track to embrace the runners.

“I just get fired up,” Zimmer said. “Those boys — they just did what they’re supposed to do. We always want to have excellence at the end.”

It was not the only event where the Wolves experienced that. Church won the 800 (1:59.2). South also picked up points in several other events, including the one-mile run where Church (4:35.16) and Villarma (4:35.16) finished fourth and fifth, respectively. And the Wolves added a couple of fifth-place finishes with Villarma (2:00.95) in the 800 and Gascoyne (50.96) in the 400.

South even accumulated points on the field side after recently struggling in those events. Sophomore Cole Sunkel was seventh in the javelin with a throw of 165 feet, 3 inches, while classmate Chandler VanAmen was eighth in the discus (124-04).

“Chandler VanAmen had a great day for the conditions,” Zimmer said. “He stepped up for us.

“We’re starting to ramp things up and get some good marks.”

Ballew agreed.

“We’re really feeling comfortable and strong right now,” she said. “Meets like this really make them stronger and confident.”

South has one more regular-season meet Friday at Bellarmine Prep before it returns to Joe Knowles Stadium for the Class 4A Narrows League meet the following week. Church believes the 1,600-relay team’s performance foreshadows what is to come.

“It just shows that we have a legitimate chance to win the state title, as well,” he said.” It’s incredible.”

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