Battling wind and rain and some of the top prep competitors in the state, Sequim’s boys track and field squad ran, hurdled and threw to a state title — and into the school record books.
Led by 800-meter state champ Murray Bingham, a senior-laden Wolves track and field racked up 11 medals at the class 2A state track and field meet at Mount Tahoma High School last week, earning not only Sequim High’s first track and field championship, but the first overall SHS boys team title in any sport.
The Wolves crowded the medal stand all weekend and locked up the team title with a pair of top-three efforts in the waning moments of the meet — senior Riley Cowan’s second-place finish in the javelin and a third-place finish by Sequim’s 4×400 relay team — as the Wolves amassed 61 team points, out-pacing Tumwater (46), Ridgefield (42) and Pullman (40).
The Wolves’ best team finish was fourth place (twice), in 2015 and 1987.
“We thought we had a shot before the season even started (based on) how we did last year, who we had coming back,” Sequim coach Brad Moore said.
Despite some early-season injuries to key athletes, Moore noted that they were able to get most of the Wolves in shape at the right time.
“They kept getting better,” Moore said. “They just kept working. It was that whole concept of perseverance, long term goals.”
After winning the Olympic League and West Central District team titles in the preceding weeks, Moore said, “We thought, ‘We could do this.’”
Bingham helped get the Wolves off to a fast start with a third-place finish in a 1,600-meter final on May 23, a race that he led until the final lap. He finished in 4:21.73, his second-fastest 1600 effort this season.
“Coach told me to kind of wait (on pushing the lead), to go 68-, 67- (second laps) but I took the third lap at 62,” Bingham said. “I just kind of burned out.”
“He got a little eager,” Moore said.
But Bingham had plenty left in the tank in the next two days, racing to a big win his preliminary 800 heat on May 24 before edging Lucas Cunningham of Sehome by a tenth of a second (1:55.94) in the 800 final a day later.
Joining Bingham in the 800-meter finals was teammate Alec Shingleton, who placed fifth in the 800 (1:59) and added a second place finish in the 400-meter finals (50.01)
Shingleton battled through injuries — including a hamstring issue on the season’s first day, Moore said — and sickness at the state meet to earn a pair of individual medals and helped the 4×400 relay place third.
“I’d be running once a week in practice and then in meets,” Shingleton said.
Doubled over following a first place finish in his preliminary heat of the 400, Shingleton said he was able to persevere through his illness thanks in part to experience, in part to having the team title in mind.
“(It’s) that motivation to win for the team,” he said. “It’s pretty exciting.”
Shingleton placed sixth in the 400 and ninth in the 800 at the 2018 state 2A finals, and placed 14th in the 800 as a sophomore in 2017.
“Before I was nervous at meets like this; I’m more confident coming into every single race,” Shingleton said.
Edging in to the 800 final on May 25 with the eighth-fastest time, Shingleton moved up three spots to finish in 1:59.21, then came within 0.12 of a second of a state title in the 400 that same day, trailing only Brian Le of Tumwater.
“A lights-out performance — it’s amazing what he did,” Moore said. “He just kept pouring it on.”
Sequim’s Riley Martin capped his prep career with a second place finish in the 110 high hurdles on May 24, after placing third in the same event at last year’s state final.
Martin clipped the finish line in 14.910 seconds — 0.001 of a second behind Tyrus Thomas of Pullman.
It’s a finish that, a couple of weeks into the season, looked like an impossibility. The senior said that following multiple injuries — three in three weeks — that he decided to leave the team.
“I thought, ‘Maybe it’s just time to hang up the shoes’,” Martin said. A couple of his senior teammates convinced him to come back.
“I never took him off the team,” Moore said. “When he asked to come back, there was no drama.”
Said Martin, following the 110 final, “I’m more than thankful.”
Martin raced to a 15.36-second mark (second) at the league meet and 14.99 seconds (also second) at districts before his runner-up effort at state.
“My overal goal was sub-15 (seconds); I was happy to get there,” Martin said. “(At state the goal was to) just run and have fun.”
Teammate Fischer Jensen, another Sequim senior, earned a spot in the 300 hurdles final on May 25, where he placed eighth in 41.80.
Sequim also got a pair of top-eight performances out of junior Darren Salazar, who raced to a fifth-place finish in the 200-meter finals (22.86) and sixth in the 100-meter sprint (11.43).
“He’s just lights-out; he was a stud for us,” Moore said. “At the start of the season we didn’t expect him to be in the finals of the 100, but maybe the 200.”
Salazar said he was able to improve his times over the season thanks to running cross country in the fall and doing weight training and intervals in the winter months.
“It’s definitely an improvement from last year,” said Salazar, who placed sixth in the 200 at districts in 2018. He also improved his 100 best from 2018 by a half-second and his 200 mark by nearly a half-second.
Along with Bingham, Shingleton and Logan Laxson, Salazar helped Sequim’s 4×400 relay team place third, and get the Wolves’ 4×100 relay team to the finals.
He said he switched to running the anchor leg of the 4×400 relay this season.
“It’s terrifying,” Salazar said of running the anchor leg, in between his 100- and 200-meter preliminary races. “It’s all about having that mental strength.”
Auspicious starts, strong finishes
Cowan improved on his fourth-place finish at last year’s meet with a 176-foot, 6-inch throw in the javelin finals on May 25. The SHS senior posted the throw early on, which proved fruitful after the weather turned worse in the late afternoon.
“That (throw) put pressure on everybody else,” Moore said.
Sequim’s 4×100 relay team of Salazar, Laxson, Jarrett Allen and Keeshawn Whitney looked to be out of the proverbial and literal running of the final after placing seventh in their preliminary heat on May 24. But three teams in the second heat (Bremerton, Lindbergh, Mountlake Terrace) were disqualified for running out of their zone, and the Wolves edged in with the eighth-fastest mark.
A day later, with freshman Theo McMurray taking Salazar’s place in the lineup to help the junior stay fresh for his 100- and 200-meter finals, an eight-place Sequim relay team (44.70) was bumped to sixth place after two more teams — Cheney and Franklin Pierce — were disqualified.
Sequim senior pole vaulter Liam Byrne got a tough luck finish to his prep career after he sprained an ankle during a training session in Seattle just days before the state tournament.
Byrne said he took off a bit too far back on one attempt and landed on the slope of the vault mat, hearing a “pop” as he turned his ankle.
The SHS senior could only look on in sweats and a protective boot as other vaulters vied for top places at the state meet. Byrne, who said he may try to walk on to Portland State University’s track team where he will study mechanical engineering next fall, had a season-best mark of 13-0.
“I was a little worried (about a state title chance) after Liam got hurt,” Moore said. “The way it looked, he could place well in the vault. I was hopeful the sprain wasn’t too bad.
“I thought, ‘What if we are close (but don’t win)?’ That would have really bothered (Liam) too.”
As it turned out, the Wolves had enough points across the board to take the team title.
What was Byrne’s poor luck turned out to be good fortune for River Ridge senior Matthew Jenkins, a state meet alternate whose coach said Jenkins didn’t know he’d be eligible to vault until the day of the meet. With Byrne’s scratch, Jenkins was able to compete and tied for second overall with a 13-0 mark, just six inches back of state champ Levi Williams of Columbia River.
Two medals for SHS girls
Sequim High freshman Riley Pyeatt placed fifth in the 400-meter run (58.88) and senior Elizabeth Sweet capped her prep career with a sixth-place finish in the pole vault (10-0) as Sequim’s girls placed 34th as a team.
Sweet lost about four week of training to injuries during the season, Moore said.
“She had some very lofty goals this season,” the Sequim coach said of Sweet. “We finally got to where she looked good vaulting at the end of the season. It was just not enough to get 10-6 (but) I’m proud of her. She worked really hard and was able to turn it around at the end of the season.”
Pyeatt qualified for two state races, with a spot in the 400 finals and 12th overall at 200 meters.
Despite success at longer distances — Pyeatt placed 13th at the class 2A cross country final in November, on a 3.1-mile course — the ninth-grader said she uses that time to get in shape for winter (basketball) and spring (track) seasons.
“I’ve been very successful in the events I chose,” Pyeatt said.
She said breaking 59 seconds in the 400 was her highlight — she did it three times this season — and hopes to clip that time to the low 58s or better in coming years.
Sequim High sophomore Abby Schroeder followed her district high jump championship with a 14th place finish at state after clearing 4-8 on May 23.
Olympic League squads represented well at state, with Port Angeles and North Kitsap tying for second place behind 2A state champ Bellingham.