Prep girls track and field: T-Birds 800 relay puts together signature moment


TUMWATER – The moment Tumwater’s Ava Jones crossed the finish line, she turned around towards the live results truck and waited for the time to pop up on the screen.

What followed was a screamfest and jubilation on Friday night.

Cassidy Hedin, Annabelle Clapp, Reese Heryford and Jones set a new season-best in the 800 relay and broke a 20-plus year school record with a blitzing time of 1 minute, 42.47 seconds at the Class 2A District 4 meet and their final time running at Tumwater District Stadium.

“We’ve talked about it for three years, obviously a really big goal,” Jones said. “We believe in each other so much. We went into it with the (mentality) like ‘Yeah, we’re going to get it.’

“We didn’t care how we looked. We pushed all the way through the line for that time.”

That win plus two more and 12 events qualified for the 2A state meet in Tacoma allowed the Thunderbirds to capture the team title with 122.5 points.

Now, their true title defense commences. The talk of attempting to three-peat as state champs has been minimal, focusing attention on the meet that’s on the schedule.

All that separates Tumwater from solidifying a dynasty is three days of track and field.

“It is on their minds,” T-Birds head coach Jordan Stray said. “You can’t even talk about fighting for anything at state until you get there.”

Of the six times that quartet has ran the 800 relay, they have yet to lose. Still, this was the first time since the Shaner Invite two weeks ago the time was close to sub-1:43.

Clapp gave Heryford a multi-second lead in the second exchange and Jones punctuated the dominance on the anchor leg.

“It was our best race,” Jones said. “We ran like it was our last time running it.”

Jones ran the third leg on the winning 1,600 relay and edged out Ridgefield’s McKenna Calkins 12.61-12.63 to triumph in the 100-meter dash.

The junior placed second in the 200 to be in four events next week.

“I definitely think I need to relax into my race,” Jones said. “Everyone is super fast; running with fast people is all I want.”

Tumwater had several PR’s that aided to its stellar day. Clapp was the runner-up in the 400 and 800 while freshman Ashlyn Hufana was second in the long jump, ran on the second place 400 relay and took third in the 100. Abigail Krause was second in the shot put plus McKayla Clary (javelin) and Alexandra Broome (1,600) were third.

“It is a (much) bigger spread this year and that was one of our goals as a coaching staff,” Stray said. “Even if it is one point here or there, all of that will help with the top stuff we have.”

W.F. West’s Amanda Bennett registered a new season-best in the javelin, uncorking a throw of 124-09 to win the event. The reigning state champ threw for over 120 for the first time since the Activators Classic.

Which has caused the junior to get in her head a bit.

“It was so important to me,” Bennett said. “I just decided to clear my head, do a little happy dance and I throw better when I’m having fun.”

While javelin is still her main event, she’ll double up at state next week. Bennett cleared the pole vault bar at nine feet even to finish third.

It is her first year doing pole vault.

“You have to be mentally strong for it because you’re always going to end on a fail,” Bennett said. “I make sure to listen to what my coaches have to say and my teammates. In any event in track, you can never have too much pride with something.”

For as long as Bearcats head coach Katie Jansen Guiliani has been around Bennett, she is far from surprised with how she’s handled two field events to add on to her running events.

“She’s spent most of her time this season at pole vault,” Guiliani said. “She’s focused a lot of her energy there. Who doesn’t love to fly upside down in the air?”

Freshman Ashlen Gruginski set a new lifetime best in the 1,600 to place second and qualify for state. Joy Cushman (800) and Emily Mallonee (110 hurdles) placed fourth to head to state for W.F. West.

Rochester’s Merecedies Dupont broke one minute in the 400 for a new PR and placed in the top-four in the 200 to head to state. Centralia’s Alayna McGregor took fourth in the javelin to claim her spot at state.

Black Hills’ best finish was Lia Crecelius, sixth in the triple jump.