Minutes after the conclusion of Saturday’s NIAA regional track finals, members of the Carson High girls team crowded onto the podium and mugged for the cameras.
And for good reason.
Led by Maddie Preston’s wins in the high jump, long jump, triple jump and a gutty anchor leg on the winning 800 relay team, the Senators tied with Galena for first place, giving Carson its first regional crown since 1992.
“I knew we had the top girls like Maddie, Athena (Favero) and ValerieSue (Meyer) that could get top points,” coach Robert Maw said. “In a meet like this, it’s the fifth, sixth, seventh and eighth-place points that mean a lot. Any one point can make the difference.”
That was proven in the last event, the 1600-meter relay. The quartet of Alison Greene, Abby Paulson, Lauren Hudak and Meyer finished sixth. Galena was in ninth (no points) until the final 100 meters when its anchor runner passed North Valleys to get a point, and that was enough for the Grizzlies to grab a share of the crown.
Preston is returning to state for the fourth time, and she has a legitimate chance to go top-three in each individual event. She did, however, suffer a strained right hamstring right after taking the baton for the anchor leg in the 800 relay.
To her credit, Preston finished the race, holding off runners from Galena and McQueen for the win in 1:45.01. She needed medical attention, however, and had her leg wrapped. By the end of the meet she was hobbling under her own power.
“I was on the north side of the stadium, and right after taking the baton, she hobbled,” Maw said. “I knew she was hurt, but I didn’t know how bad. She was able to pick up some speed at the end. It was a gutty performance, and Maddie didn’t want to let the team down.”
Preston’s health will be the top priority for trainer Adam Hunsaker this week, and it’s likely she won’t do any heavy work before the team leaves Thursday morning for Las Vegas.
Maw said she has battled issues with her hamstring during the season. He said Josilyn Daggs had the same injury her senior year and was able to get healthy in time for state.
Preston opened the day by winning the high jump at 5-2 and then went 17-3 1/4 to win the long jump and 37-1 1/4 to take the triple jump. Preston has been up and down in the high jump all year. She has been much more consistent in the long and triple jumps.
“I need to get back to the point (high jumping) where I’m going 5-4 or higher,” she said. “I’m not rotating enough when I go over the bar.
“I still want to get my 18-footer in the long jump. Hopefully I can do that at state. Part of the problem is when I’m doing run thrus I’m going at different speed than I do when the jumps count. I need to work on that and get my speed consistent down the runway.”
Sahara Winder qualified in two individual events, the 100 and 200. She was third in both events, clocking a 12.61 and 25.76. Both times were PRs, according to Maw.
“Sahara has had a good season,” Maw said. “She has been a lot more motivated.”
Favero had an easy time in the 300 hurdles. Her steps were off slightly at a couple of hurdles, but she was clean until she banged the last hurdle and finished in 46.47. It was the second straight time she had lowered her time.
Meyer also had a PR in the 400, clocking a 59.21. She was a scant .06 behind second-place finisher Jesicca Ozoude.
Hailey Palotas’ 16-7 3/4 in the long jump was a PR. She also PRd in the TJ at 34-3, but failed to move on. Caroline Gubica’s 35-3 in the triple jump was a PR, but was two spots out of the money. Paulson PRd by two feet when she jumped 33-4. She was seventh.
The 400 quartet of Palotas, Meyer, Favero and Winder advanced with a season-best 49.69, eclipsing the previous best of 51.02.
Douglas’ Lindsey Adams was her dominant self, winning the 800 (2:19.39) and the 1600 (5:12.11). She also ran a relay leg on the 1600 meter team that advanced. Teammate Morgan Weston won the discus at 125-7.