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TRACK AND FIELD PREVIEW: Federal Way primed to defend a pair of state titles
The Federal Way High School track and field programs made history last year. For the first time in the long and rich history of the programs, both the boys and girls proved to the best of the best in Washington.
The Eagle boys, who were dominant all season long and the prohibitive favorites, set a meet record with 90 points during the Class 4A State Track and Field Championships at Mount Tahoma High School.
It was far more dramatic for the Federal Way girls. The Eagles won the state team title by the slimmest of margins, 42-41, over division-rival Curtis.
The scary thing is, both Federal Way teams might actually be better this season, especially on the girls’ side.
The Eagles return junior Mariyah Vongsaveng, who was responsible for 33 of the Eagles’ 42 team points at the state meet. Vongsaveng won the individual state title in the 100-meter hurdles and finished fourth in the 300 hurdles.
Vongsaveng ran on a pair of relays, including the state-championship in the 4x100. The team of Gabriela Pelogi, Ta’Mara Richey, Vongsaveng and Karis Cameron won the title.
The same foursome, who are all back this year, was second behind Curtis in the 4x200.
Richey finished third in the triple jump and 11th in the long jump at state.
Federal Way also brings back state-placer Audrey Shin, who finished sixth in the high jump.
But newcomer Hannah Cunliffe might be the best of the bunch. The senior has already signed a national letter of intent to sprint at Oklahoma University in the fall after putting together one of the best youth résumés in the United States. Cunliffe finished up in fourth place at the 200 meters at the 2013 IAAF World Youth Championships in Ukraine for 16-17 year olds.
During the 2013 outdoor season, Cunliffe ran a personal-best time of 11.38 in the 100 meters and ran a 23.10 in the 200. To put it into perspective, Curtis’ Kennadi Bouyer won the 4A title in the 100 meters in 11.96 and ran a 22.84 to win the 200 at the 2013 state meet.
Cunliffe will be the overwhelming favorite to win state titles in both the 100 and 200. She already ran an 11.40 for Federal Way at the ultra-prestigious Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays in Austin on March 29. The time is best in the state by over a second and was good for second place in Texas.
After being homeschooled, Cunliffe enrolled at Decatur as a freshman. But an incident with a Gator teammate ended with Cunliffe being spiked. She left Decatur and returned to being homeschooled as a sophomore.
Cunliffe returned to public school before her junior year, when she enrolled at Federal Way. However, the WIAA ruled her ineligible for the track season because of transfer rules.
On the boys’ side, the Eagles return a pair of individual state champions in Keenan Curran and Tyson Penn. Curran won the 4A title in the triple jump with a leap of 46-1.25 and Penn won the high jump. As a freshman last year, Penn cleared 6-foot-8 to set an all-time, ninth-grade record in the state of Washington. Penn has already cleared 6-9 this season.
Mitch Stewart is back for the Eagles after finishing in sixth place in the 1,600-meter run.
Following the race, Stewart and his parents drove to the Tri-Cities, where he won his second-straight Class 4A state singles tennis championship last spring. Stewart lost only one match during his high school tennis career, which came to Jackson’s Michael Chamerski in the singles championship during his freshman season. He will play tennis in the fall at the University of Washington.
Also back are throwers JayTee Tiuli, Jared Pulu and Eric Ah Fua, along with sprinter/jumper Chico McClatcher and sophomore Jason Palmer.
The track and field talent is also impressive at the three other high schools in Federal Way, led by Beamer junior Chante Spotser.
Spotser came very close to claiming the 400-meter state championship at last year’s state meet, finishing just three-hundreths of a second behind Bellarmine Prep’s Hannah Derby in the final. Spotser ran a 55.87, compared to a 55.84 by Derby.
Another state title contender will be Jefferson senior Kaya Warrior in the throwing events. Warrior ended up fourth in the 4A girls discus with a toss of 123-3 and was sixth in the shot put at (38-10.25).
On the boys’ side, Beamer’s Kerson Lubin should be one of the top sprinters in the SPSL. The senior has league-best times this season in the 100 (11.18) and 200 (22.69). Jefferson is lead by senior pole vaulter Ryan Austria, who has already cleared 12-1.