Moments before the first finals race of the afternoon began Friday at the Class 4A/3A/2A track and field state championships, rain suddenly started cascading down on the track at Mount Tahoma Stadium.
During the short stretch of six hurdles races — the boys 110 hurdles and girls 100 hurdles were the only championship races run on the second day of competition — what started as light rainfall quickly turned into a downpour.
But, that didn’t stop five athletes from South Sound high schools from securing state titles, and nearly sweeping the event.
Emerald Ridge freshman JaiCieonna Gero-Holt won the final hurdles contest of the afternoon in the 4A girls race, and when she crossed the finish line against gusts of wind, completed a string of five consecutive championships won by local competitors.
“In this weather, you have to fight, and you can’t give it up,” Gero-Holt said.
For Gero-Holt, pushing through the sudden change in weather conditions made her second victory of the afternoon in her first state meet appearance even more exciting.
She entered the weekend with the top time in the event in the state this spring — her personal-best finish of 14.49 seconds at the Arcadia Invitational in California last month ranks eighth in the nation among freshmen this season — and ended it by topping the rain-soaked podium with a win.
Gero-Holt posted a 14.71 in the final, edging Lake Stevens senior Chloe Pattison, the top qualifier in Thursday’s preliminary heats, by three-hundredths of a second.
“It was definitely not easy,” Gero-Holt said. “She gave me a fight. It was an honor to run with her. … In this weather, it’s tough, but I’m glad I’m able to still compete and come out here and do what I do.”
The hurdles win was not long after Gero-Holt secured her first career championship in the long jump with a personal-best 18-4 1/4.
She also placed seventh in the 4A girls javelin at 113-7 on Thursday, and is the top seed in the 4A girls high jump — her personal-best 6-0 3/4 last month ranks second nationally — Saturday afternoon.
“It’s very exciting,” she said of winning the two titles Friday. “I couldn’t be any happier.”
Gero-Holt’s hurdles win also completed Emerald Ridge’s sweep of the two 4A races in the event after senior Asher Ogden won the boys contest minutes earlier.
Ogden, the runner-up in the event the last time it was run three seasons ago when he was a freshman, took the top spot in his final high school race.
“I’ve been waiting for this one for three years now,” he said.
In a tight race through the final hurdle, he stretched over the finish line in 14.77, just ahead of Lake Stevens senior Sean Martelles, who was the top qualifier from Thursday’s prelims.
“I’m happy,” Ogden said. “There’s no other words.”
Silas senior Jaylen McCabe won the 3A boys crown in his first state meet, cruising by the field to post a winning time of 14.24 after entering as the top qualifier.
“It makes me so happy to actually be able to do this finally,” he said. “I’ve been trying to do it ever since ninth grade, and now I’m here.”
McCabe’s final high school meet isn’t over yet either — he’s the top qualifier for Saturday’s 3A boys 100 final, as well as the No. 2 qualifier in the 200 and the anchor of the Rams’ 4x100 relay.
In the 3A girls race, Capital junior Hana Moll topped the field with a personal-best 14.66.
“I really had to earn that one, but I’m excited for that,” she said. “I always like to come in thinking positive. I really fought for it and I got it.”
Moll added a runner-up finish in the 3A girls pole vault earlier Friday at 14-0, and anchored Capital’s 4x100 relay in the prelims, helping send the Cougars to the finals with the top qualifying time.
Enumclaw senior Ellie DeGroot won the 2A girls 100 hurdles with a personal-best 15.02, and is also the top qualifier in the 300 hurdles race Saturday after running a personal-best 44.58 in her preliminary heat earlier in the afternoon.
The only hurdles championship a South Sound competitor didn’t win Friday was the 2A boys race, which matched up two nationally-ranked competitors from Bellingham high schools.
As the rain started to fall, Squalicum junior Andre Korbmacher and Sehome senior Carter Birade — who are ranked No. 8 and tied-No. 13 nationally in the event this spring — were getting set in the blocks for the first of the six races.
Korbmacher eventually rewrote his own 2A meet record set during Thursday’s prelims, as well as rewriting the overall state meet record, finishing the race in 13.83 with Birade not far behind at 14.28.
“I think that might have been one of my best races,” Korbmacher said. “We got a headwind, it felt like. I came out, I performed. I am really happy with my performance.”
Korbmacher’s time bested the meet record mark previously set by Rainier Beach’s Cecil Bowie in 1987 at 13.86.
Contributing writer Doug Drowley contributed to this report.