Cheney girls prove to be the little team that did

Blackhawks earn third-place team finish at state 2A


John McCallum

Janessa Day stays just ahead of Renton’s Savannah Smith during 2A state track and field preliminaries of the 400-meter run Friday afternoon at Mt. Tahoma High School in Lakewood. The senior reached the finals in the event Saturday, placing second just ahead of Smith to help Cheney to a third-place girls’ team trophy.

Cheney girls track and field head coach Tom Stralser knew at the beginning of the season that the Blackhawks were going to be a good, big-meet team. Turns out he was right.

With just seven athletes the Blackhawks ran, jumped and threw their way to a third place team finish in the 2A classification at last weekend’s 2A, 3A, 4A track and field state championships at Lakewood’s Mt. Tahoma High School. While individual state titles proved elusive, Cheney did come home with three seconds, a third, a fourth, a fifth and two sixth place finishes in nine events.

“Second by half a point,” Stralser said Tuesday as the Blackhawks finished with 49 points, behind Bellingham – which sent 14 athletes – at 49.5 and state champion Sehome – with 20 – at 74 points.

“We were the smallest team in the top four. Everyone got on the medal stand though,” he added.

Indeed Cheney was the smallest team in the top 10, with East Valley-Spokane next with 10 athletes, finishing eighth.

Janessa Day finished second in the 400-meter run and sixth in the 200. The senior turned in a top qualifying time of 57.32 seconds in the 400 preliminaries Friday, and topped that with a new school record 56.98 Saturday in the finals. She went 26.07 in the 200 prelims, finishing with a 25.93 on Saturday.

Chae Brown took second in the triple jump with a leap of 35 feet, 10 inches, just a little over two feet behind state champion Janayla Scott of Lindbergh. Stralser said prior to finals Saturday the junior actually pulled off a jump estimated around 38-39 feet, but officials ruled she scratched by a fraction of an inch.

The 4x200 team of Kendall Dunn, Johanna Sherman, Brown and Day took second with a time of 1:42.82, a season best and second best in the state behind state champion Sehome’s 1:42.33.

“I think it went really well,” Day said after the race. “I think we actually broke our school record, so I’m pretty happy about our finish.”

Senior distance runner Sanne Holland came up a bit short in her bid for a three-peat in the 3,200 meters Saturday, running well in the top three through the first five laps but fading towards the end to finish third in 11:11.18. She also finished fourth in the 1,600 Thursday with a time of 5:07.30.

Sehome’s Emily Pittis captured the state title in both events in 5:04.29 and 10:52.46.

Kendall Dunn also had a disappointing finish in the 300 hurdles. The senior ran a 44.15 during the season, and was in good shape after a prelim time of 45.09. But in the 4x200 she pulled a hamstring, gritting out the hurdles finals to finish fifth in 45.68.

“That could’ve been the difference between the four by two (winning) and her placing in the top three in the hurdles,” Stralser said. “I told Kendall, ‘you got more races to run kid.’”

Senior Erin Clark took fifth in the pole vault with a vault of 11-06, while junior Kinsey Pease was sixth in her first state appearance in the javelin with a throw of 117-05.

For the boys, Eric Igbinoba was fifth in the triple jump at 42-3 1/2 while Calvin Berstler was sixth in the 110 high hurdles in 15.45 and the 300 low hurdles in 39.62, a season best.

Stralser said he was happy with how things went at state and over the course of the season, noting the girls broke five school records and were always focused at meets.

“It was a great season,” he said. “I thought the team could be a good big meet team, and they were. They were ready to roll.”

John McCallum can be reached at


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