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Federal Way track athletes star at Junior Olympic Championships
Federal Way High School’s track team made waves at the state championship this year. Two of the school’s athletes, Ta’Mara Richey and Mason Sallee, have now made a mark at the national level.
Last month both athletes competed in the USATF National Junior Olympic Track and Field Championships in Humble, Texas. Both placed high.
Richey’s accomplishments began well before the Junior Olympic Championships. The senior placed second in the long jump and third in the triple this May at the state championship.
It was not her first year attending the national event. Last year she finished fifth in the long jump and 20th in the triple jump.
“Last year I took fifth with my first individual event,” said Richey. “So I knew going in that I wanted to set an even higher standard for myself.”
Her higher standards were easily met. She placed third in the long jump with a distance of 19 feet 1.25 inches. She also placed fifth in the triple jump with a distance of 38 feet 9 inches.
Sallee, then a sophomore, also did well at the state championships in May where he finished fifth in the triple jump event.
This was his first year at the national championships. He was also the youngest competitor in the 17-18 group as he is only 16.
“Being only 16 at the nationals meant that I had to put in a bit more extra work,” said Sallee. “It was definitely a hard fight to get there. But when I got there and competed, it was nice. Definitely a happy feeling.”
While Sallee primarily triple jumps, his long jump numbers were the highlight of his time in Texas. Sallee finished ninth in the event with a distance of 22 feet 1.75 inches.
Both athletes attribute much of their success to their summer and indoor league coach Nate Wilford. Wilford is the head coach of the Flying AJ’s, an elite level youth track and field club.
“Nate is honestly indescribable,” Richey said. “He’s hard on you, very hard on you but he knows what he’s talking about and you can see that once you see yourself at the top. He’s a great coach and I love him to death.”
Wilford has been coaching with the Flying AJ’s for 10 years. In that time, the club has seen multiple state medalists, state champions and even a national champion.
The goal of the club is to train athletes to get into college universities. They know what the colleges are looking for in their track programs and try to hit those marks.
Both athletes maintained that the workouts they go through with the Flying AJ’s are tougher than others they do. They believe that is reason they have been able to compete at the national level.
“It was exhilarating,” Wilford said. “As a coach you’re working with those guys and gals and hoping that they’re going to improve. Just to see those giant PRs, it can’t get much better than that. As a coach, that’s what you’re out there for.”
Wilford does not believe that Richey and Sallee have reached their full potential. He believes Richey is already capable of 20 foot jumps and continues to see improvement each day from Sallee.
“Mason is a jokester,” Wilford said. “Ta’Mara is always full of energy and happy-go-lucky. They’re also both well above-average students. They’re a pleasure to be around.”
The next step for Richey is joining the track program at Portland State. Richey has earned a scholarship and is looking forward to joining the Vikings and taking part in Junior Nationals in the coming weeks.
Sallee will be a junior at Federal Way High School next year and already has one of the top marks in the state at triple jump. He is aiming for 49 feet in the triple jump and 23 feet 3.5 inches in the long for next year.