For the first time in West Valley High School’s history, both the varsity boys and girls teams won the West Valley Invite, the largest invitational in the Northern Section, in the same year, said Coach Scott Fairley.
“For those of us who knew the team score, the last half hour of the meet was filled with many ups and downs,” said Fairley in an email.
The final team scores for the varsity girls were West Valley 68, Red Bluff 57, and Pleasant Valley 46 points. For the varsity boys, West Valley was able to squeak by Chico with 69 points to the Panthers 68.
Following a win by Nick Putman in the 300-meter hurdles, the Eagles were leading Chico by eight points.
In the 200m, Chico’s Eli Penick was expected to win, but ended up second, while West Valley’s Austin Clark ran a lifetime best of 23.00 seconds to place fifth, said Fairley. “In the 3,200m, West Valley had no entrants and Chico’s entrants were only ranked eighth and 12th.”
However, the Chico runners ran the races of their lives placing second and sixth, which put Panthers ahead of the Eagles by seven points. During that race, results from the shot put were being tallied and West Valley’s Colt Roberts placed fourth and Robbie Brown placed sixth, helping West Valley make up additional points.
Chico had no place winners in shot put, so going into the 1,600m the boys score was Chico 67, West Valley 65. According to Fairley, they knew West Valley would have to place fifth and have Chico not place at all in the 1,600m to even tie for the championship.
“Chico ran in the second of three heats and won in a very fast time of 3:33.49. West Valley was in trouble since our best time of the year was 3:40 and one of our runners, Ethan Tapal was at the State FFA Conference,” explained Fairley.
In the last race of the evening, West Valley led off with Brandon Popp, who was making his varsity debut. “He ran good enough to keep us in contention, but we needed Nick Putman to pull us back up into the thick of the race and he did with a 51.8 split,” Fairley stated. Kasen Strickland, who had been sick earlier in the evening, made a bold move with 200 meters to go to keep West Valley in it with a 53.8 second split.
“Anchor runner, Austin Clark took the baton in sixth place. He gradually moved up on the runners on the back stretch, and coming into the final straightaway found himself in fourth place,” said Fairley. “He held off a runner from Pleasant Grove and finished in a personal record split time of 50.0 seconds.
“When we looked at the overall time, West Valley had run 3:33.23. This was faster than Chico by 0.2 of a second.”
Pleasant Grove had also snuck in between West Valley and Chico, pushing Chico back to sixth place.
For the girls, the team scoring was nearly as exciting as the boys, except the title came down to a three-way race West Valley, Pleasant Valley and Red Bluff.
West Valley has dominated the Northern Section Invitationals this year because of the strength they have with their distance runners. According to Fairley, there were several good distance runners from out of section schools like Tahoe-Truckee, McKinleyville, Fortuna and Arcata that broke up some of the distance points the varsity girls could have earned.
“With four running events to go, the score was PV 36, WV 32, and Red Bluff 31 points,” said Fairley.
Kristina Freitas won the 300m long hurdles for the Eagles. In the 3,200m, Jenna Storms took first followed by Hannah Dorman in second.
Red Bluff was the favorite to win the 1,600m and the discus, however, the Spartan’s discus thrower only placed fourth and West Valley’s 1,600m relay team of Freitas, Storms, Ande Baldwin and Jenna Hinkle placed second to seal the win.