TRACK | Church, relay capture state titles

South Kitsap’s Zach Sleigh (left) takes the baton from Adam Gascoyne during the second leg of the Class 4A state track and field championship 4x400 meter relay race at Mount Tahoma High School. - Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo
South Kitsap’s Zach Sleigh (left) takes the baton from Adam Gascoyne during the second leg of the Class 4A state track and field championship 4x400 meter relay race at Mount Tahoma High School.
— image credit: Dannie Oliveaux/Staff Photo

TACOMA — LaForrest Church brought two elements to the state track meet.

The right shoes and the right mindset.

“I wanted to come in with a come-get-me attitude,” said Church, referring to the 800-meter run. “I wanted people to know that I was the person to beat. I was telling myself that I was going to win this.”

Church had little difficulty accomplishing with a first-place finish in 1 minute, 51.82 seconds, at Star Track XXXI on Saturday afternoon at Mount Tahoma High School. It was the fastest time in the state this year.

“You’re just so elated for the rest of the day,” Church said. “You carry yourself about differently for the rest of the meet. All of the hard work for the last six years through junior high has paid off.”

Church put himself in position to win three state championships. In individual events, he also finished second in the 400. Central Kitsap’s Michael Thomas won the race in 47.83 seconds, while Church crossed the finish line in 48.14.

“I’m a little upset that I didn’t win this, but Michael’s a great kid,” Church said.

But he vowed that result would not curtail him in the 1,600 relay, which ran 2 1/2 hours later.

“I know they’re depending on me,” Church said.

Despite his workload, Church kept his word. He received the baton from Mason Villarma in second place behind Federal Way’s Michael Tate, but managed to hold him off en route to a state championship and school-record time of 3:18.39.

“I had no doubt we would win this,” said Adam Gascoyne, who ran the first leg. “No doubt.”

He said that feeling developed during last year’s state meet when the Wolves finished sixth in 3:24.15. With the exception of Bastian Tabacchi, who focused on the 400 relay this year, South returned the same team with Zach Sleigh also coming back. Gascoyne said there always was plenty of incentive to perform well as there was a lot of depth behind the varsity squad.

“We’re the Wolfpack,” he said. “We have a bunch of other Wolves waiting in line.”

Afterward, Church said he felt “sorer than ever.” The relay quartet was discussing how they envisioned their state championship party.

“We’ll celebrate and find a pool,” Gascoyne said. “All I want to do is relax.”

Not all elements of the state meet were positive for the Wolves. A dropped baton disqualified the 400 relay.

South co-coach Paul Zimmer thinks Gascoyne’s handoff came quicker than Tabacchi anticipated. That miscue, along with junior Marcus Burk’s foul in the discus, meant the Wolves finished seventh with 28 points. Federal Way won the boys team title with meet-record 90 points.

“I thought we would have some points,” Zimmer said.

The Wolves also went scoreless on the girls side as sophomore thrower Shannon Laupola was their only competitor. She finished 10th in the javelin at 120 feet, 4 inches.

Regardless, Zimmer said he was pleased with how the boys performed.

“We had quite a bit of success with the guys who ran,” he said. “The kids executed like they’re supposed to.”

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