SPARKS - So much for running in the shadows. Douglas High School's Gabe Hatchett proved he is capable of running to the gold Saturday at the 18th Reed/Sparks Rotary Invitational track and field meet.
Hatchett outdueled Galena rival Hamilton Ashworth to win the 110-meter high hurdles and later brought Douglas from behind on the anchor leg to capture first place in the 4x400 relay at the end of a meet that attracted 38 schools representing three states.
The Tigers' quartet of Josh Nussbaum, Kyle Baker, Jared Kennison and Hatchett won its first major race with a season-best time of 3:34.07. Hatchett won the 110 highs in the morning with a 15.80 effort, one-tenth faster than Ashworth, to reverse the outcome of Friday night's 300 intermediates. Ashworth won that race with a strong 39.27 effort, while Hatchett placed third in 40.18.
Saturday's victories must have seemed sweet to Hatchett, who placed second in both hurdles races at zone last year - when he chased after Carson's two-time state champion Dave Krueger in the highs and Ashworth in the intermediates.
"I was always in his (Krueger's) shadow last year, so it felt good to win today," said Hatchett, who has already set Douglas school records in both hurdles events this season (14.7 and 39.86).
The 4x400 relay may have been even sweeter, though, because the lanky Tiger overtook Piedmont Hills (Calif.) at the end of the backstretch and pulled away to win the heat. The team's time also stood up to win the gold medal, edging Hug (3:34.65) and Fallon (3:34.95), the top two finishers in the first heat.
"That was total sweet action," first-year Douglas coach Keith Cole said. "That was a great win. It's a confidence thing; now the kids know they can go out and compete with these teams."
The Douglas team is shooting for a top-four finish at the Northern 4A zone meet next month, not to mention the school record of 3:28.4 set in 1990. That's not all, either.
"We were third at zone last year, then we went to state and finished seventh at state. This time, we want to do something at state," Hatchett recalled. "We're improving every week, so that's great. We came out and did what we had to do today."
Nussbaum led off with a 53.7 split on the opening leg, followed by Baker (55.1), Kennison (53.7) and Hatchett (51.3).
The two wins on the track, coupled with Chris Chappell's first-place performance in the pole vault, helped Douglas score 48 points and finish in a fourth-place tie in the boys team standings.
Chappell cleared 15-4 to win the pole vault, though the senior fell short in his bid to surpass the meet record and the stadium record of 15-9.
The Reed meet produced other local highlights, including Carson's first-place performance in the girls 4x800 relay (10:10). Heather Laaker and Megan Anderson placed fourth and fifth in the girls discus, with respective marks of 106-9 and 105-11.
Dayton senior Tasha Thompson placed second in the girls shot put with a heave of 36-4. The mark was two inches off her school record-tying mark of 36-6 set last week.
Her finish was the best of the meet for the Dust Devils, but there were a number of encouraging performances, according to coach Mike Paul.
"This is a tough meet to score at, but we got a lot of personal bests," Paul said. "That's why we came here, for the competition."