Sports

Federal Way relay team falls short at Hershey national meet

By CASEY OLSON

The Mirror

It was all but over.

The team of Katherine Cooper, Shenice Peters, Chantel Dixon and Ta’Rea Cunnigan led the girls 11- and 12-year-old 4x100-meter relay by 15 meters entering the forth and final leg Saturday at the prestigious Hershey Track and Field Program’s 2005 North American Final Meet.

But that’s when bad luck struck Cunnigan, a 12-year-old Illahee Junior High School student. The team’s anchor leg pulled up with about 70 meters remaining in the race with a strained hamstring, but managed to get herself together and finish the race in Hershey, Penn.

“I’m very proud of our girls,” said the team’s coach and Chantel’s father, Bruce Dixon. “They held their heads up high. They have a lot to be proud of.”

The team ended up finishing fifth in the eight-team race at the national finals in a time of 54.93. A team from Miami won the race in 53.37.

“All the teams actually caught her right at the end,” Bruce Dixon said. “She limped across the finish line. It was quite an effort by Ta’Rea.”

The team qualified for the national meet by winning the 2005 Hershey’s Washington State Meet last month at Puyallup’s Sparks Stadium and having the best time in the seven-state/province Pacific Northwest Region from Alaska, Idaho, Oregon, Montana, Alberta and British Columbia. Their qualifying time was the best of the eight teams at the national finals.

“This was going to be our year,” Bruce Dixon said. “We had everything we wanted and we ran a beautiful race. They were unhappy, but they didn’t blame each other.”

Saturday’s meet was Chantel Dixon’s fifth-straight trip to the Hershey national finals — an all-time record for the 30-year-old meet. Chantel, 12, attends Sacajawea Middle School. It was also Cunnigan’s third straight appearance in Pennsylvania and the first by both Peters, who attends Illahee, and Cooper, from Tacoma.

The girls relay team wasn’t Federal Way’s only representative in Hershey. The meet also included 11-year-old DJ May, who finished up in sixth place in the 11-12 400-meter dash in a time of 1:07.21. A California runner won the race in 58.16. It was May’s second appearance at the national meet. He finished fourth two years ago in the 200 in Pennsylvania.

The kids received an all-expense paid trip to Pennsylvania and were treated to several amenities while in Hershey, including a tour of the chocolate factory and sleeping in college dorm rooms on their four-day trip.

Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, sports@fedwaymirror.com

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