Wolves break through

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Like a pilgrim reaching the Holy Land, Emanuel Herrera crossed the finish line, raised his head to the heavens and screamed in exultation.

It was a good weekend for other Sequim athletes, too.

The Wolves track and field runners, throwers and vaulters tallied six first-place finishes and six second-place finishes at the West Central District meet Friday and Saturday at Tacoma's Mount Tahoma High School, advancing to the May 28-29 class 2A state finals.

A number of SHS athletes familiar to high school's grandest event are back on familiar ground: senior Alli Cutting, district champion in the 3,200-meter race and runner-up in the 1,600; fellow distance runner Audrey Lichten, a junior who's qualified for state in track and field and cross country all three of her high school seasons; senior Anna LaBeaume, reigning 2A shot put champion who'll have to overcome this year's district champ (Shreese Gotel of Steilacoom) to regain her crown; and senior Samantha Whiteside, who's added the 100-meter sprint to her fourth pole vaulting state berth.

But this year's state Wolf pack is marked by a number of newcomers including senior Thomas Gallagher, whose first full year in the shot put culminates in a state berth, and freshmen Jayson Brocklesby and Nicole Pino, running key legs in two of Sequim's three district champion relay teams.

And then there's Herrera, a sophomore who posted strong marks in 2009 but couldn't break through to state his freshman year in his sprint and hurdle races.

That lesson, he noted, got hammered home in the offseason as he trained to improve his time in both sprint and hurdle events.

This time around, he wasn't about to let a chance at state go by. Herrera won the 300 hurdles, topped the field in the 200-meter sprint and helped a Wolves' 4x400 relay in which he ran a blistering 49.8-second anchor split, helping Sequim take the district title and finish in 3:30.16 - a five-second best.

No wonder he let out some emotion after his hurdles win.

"(That scream)" was to rejoice that I made it," Herrera said. "Last year ... I figured I didn't have to train hard. I can't wait for state."

The Wolves won't have to wait long or to familiarize themselves to new surroundings as the 2A state championships are back at Mount Tahoma High this weekend.

Running at state for a third time in as many seasons but her first time in the 800-meter race is Lichten, who like Cutting had battled injuries and illnesses but seemed to peak at the perfect time. She ran neck-and-neck with Jaimie McFarland of Fife in the 800 before finishing second in 2:20, a personal record.

"I wasn't expecting her (McFarland) to go out that fast; I had hoped to take it easier," Lichten said Saturday, noting she still had to run the 1,600-meter race later that day. "(But) I got a PR and I don't feel too bad."

Lichten joined Cutting in a classic district battle in the 1,600 meters later that day. Sequim's duo figured to jockey for top spots in the race with Kingston sisters Ruby and Marina Roberts. In the end, Ruby Roberts took top honors and Cutting finished second to take the districts' state seeds, with Lichten in third and Marina Roberts fourth.

Lichten likely will end up with one of the top 1,600-meter times in the state, Sequim coach Brad Moore said, and still not make it to state.

"It went how I wanted it to go for the most part," Cutting said. "The pace was good."

A day earlier in the district's opening series of events, Cutting topped Marina Roberts in the 3,200-meter race, shadowing the Kingston sophomore for the first few laps and kicking past her for the automatic state berth.

"I just focused on my pace and (didn't) worry about where Marina was," said Cutting, who was back at districts after two long, injury-filled years. "It was definitely a 'God' thing. I said, 'Lord, let me fly.' It was just a good feeling."

Other Wolves were feeling fine after the weekend's festivities. LaBeaume, Pino, Whiteside and Chase O'Neil helped Sequim break the 4x100 school record once again this season with a mark of 51.12 seconds while the 4x400 relay team cruised to a win. LaBeaume, second in the shot put, had three throws longer than 39 feet, boding well for her try at another state title. Whiteside placed second in both pole vault and the 100-meter sprint, helping give Sequim's females eight state event berths and enough points to finish third overall in the team standings.

Interlake took the girls' team title with 137 points. Kingston was second at 104.5 points and Sequim was third (95 points) out of the nine-team field.

Moore, the Sequim coach, said he figured that without injured freshman Haleigh Harrison - who was out with an upper ankle injury - the Wolves didn't have a legitimate chance to take the district crown.

Sequim's boys were fifth as Interlake took the district title. Fife was second.

Moore said he expects the Sequim athletes to perform well at the state meet, particularly after competing in the same stadium the week previous.

"It matters to know the facility - there's lot of pressure and the more unfamiliar (the setting) is, the more uneasy they are," Moore said. "We're going to have some fun, enjoy the week (and) hopefully get some decent weather. That's the plan."

Track & field notes:

Jared Lindorfer, one of Sequim's 4x400 relay state qualifiers, got a surprise district berth in the high jump and placed fourth after a best jump of 5-4. He ran a 53-second split in the 4x400 relay, as did Brocklesby, the

Sequim freshman ... Gallagher needed a personal best in the shot put and got it. His throw of 51 feet, 7.5 inches placed him second, improving his best by two feet ... Sequim had a bevy of third- and fourth-place finishers, missing out on state berths by one or two places. They include Travis Decker (javelin, fourth), Alex Jenkins (800, fourth), Lindorfer (high jump, fourth), Stilts (110 and 300 hurdles, fourth), and Sequim's 4x100 relay team on the boys' side, and Lichten (1,600, third), O'Neil (triple jump, third), Jasmine McMullin (triple jump, fourth) and Sequim's 4x200 relay team on the girls' side ... Brocklesby and Adrian Clifford, both freshmen, had strong showings and figure to have a good shot at state next year. Brocklesby was fifth in both high jump and triple jump while Clifford was fifth in the 3,200-meter race and 10th in the 1,600.

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