WALLA WALLA - If the Washington State Class 4A Track and Field meet at Tacoma's Mount Tahoma High School plays out anything like the Regional meet last weekend in Yakima, Wa-Hi's state qualifiers are prepared to put on quite a show.
"The kids that earned the honor of moving on are pretty special," Blue Devils coach Eric Hisaw said. "I don't think people understand how difficult it is to get to state in any sport. To become the top four in any event out 16 entries from our league and Spokane is incredibly difficult.
"Every year, it is very rare to see kids from our side of the mountains qualify for state and not place," he said. "Our region is so tough, and that's what makes getting to the State meet such an exciting time and wonderful achievement. This year was a special year on all accounts, and the meet mirrored our season's success."
Leading the Blue Devil contingent into Tacoma are a couple boys ranked among the top in the state, as well as the country.
Garrett Gerling is ranked No. 1 in the state after setting a state-leading time in the 110 hurdles at 14.31 at regional, and is No. 2 in the 300 hurdles after winning the title in Yakima in 37.77.
Brandon Porter, ranked sixth in state and 11th in the country in the javelin, put some drama in the event before pulling off a final throw of 179 feet, 7 inches to take third out of regional.
"Our big guns were big when they had to be, and there is no bigger gun on our side of the mountains - and maybe the state - in his respective events than Garrett," Hisaw said. "He has led the entire state all season in the 110 high hurdles and has been top two all year in the 300 intermediate hurdles."
Gerling edged nemesis Casey Monahan of Mead by four-one-hundreths of a second to win the 110 hurdles last weekend. Monahan beat Gerling at regional and state last year, Hisaw said.
"He's going to have to run a clean race and stay really composed to win it all, but there's no question he can do it," he said. "And I fully expect him to rise up to the challenge and come home a state champion."
In the 300 hurdles, Gerling's regional finish moves him into the No. 2 all-time Columbia Basin Big Nine record list.
"He's been working really hard on a new step pattern between the hurdles and it finally all came together for him in the final Saturday," Hisaw said. "This may be his best race of the two, but he's ranked No. 2 and we'll see how it plays out. I just know that the better the competition has been, the faster Garrett has run. I still think he's got a special race left in him... maybe one for the record books."
Porter made his road to state interesting last weekend.
"Brandon truly tried to give us all a heart attack on Saturday," Hisaw said. "Here he is ranked sixth in the state and 11th in the country (in the javelin), and he picks the regional final to have a really difficult day."
Porter squeaked into the javelin at No. 7, where he remained until his last throw.
"It was truly an all-or-nothing attempt," Hisaw said. "He gathered himself enough to put together one of the best clutch throws I've seen. He tossed the javelin one inch farther than the kid that was fourth to earn third place and assure himself a chance to go to state.
"I know this weekend will be special for him, and I have the feeling he'll show how good he really is to the whole state."
Jonah Hoe's long jump event was interrupted with a leg in the boys 400 relay, and he had to complete the long jump quickly before advancing with a leap of 21-3.5, good for fourth by half-an-inch.
"This was the jump of his life," Hisaw said. "It was big when he took off - you could just tell, everything popped and he sailed in the air.
"Jonah is the only freshman I've ever taken in my 12 years here at Wa-Hi on the boys' side," he said. "There's never been one on a relay and no one close in an individual event."
On the girls' side, Jamie Weisner advanced with a second-place finish in the 300 hurdles (46.22) and fourth-places in the long jump (16-3.5) and javelin (133-2), and Rachel Adkins took third in the triple jump (35-7.25).
"Jamie was just awesome, I've never had a kid qualify in this many (events) before," Hisaw said of Weisner's effort. "She really had a day."
Hisaw said not having other events distracting her will help Weisner in the javelin.
"She'll get to throw Saturday with fresh legs, no race around her, and nothing else to worry about but the javelin," he said. "She has a real chance to come home a state champion.
"In the long jump, she's going to have to have a huge day," jumping over 17 feet to place, Hisaw said.
And in the hurdles, "She's completely taken off the last three weeks and she's really ready to do it again and have another break-through race."
Senior Adkins' results in the triple jump come after switching from hurdler as a sophomore.
"She became pretty good last year and this year has shown flashes of brilliance," Hisaw said. "The triple jump field is loaded this spring and she's going to have to do something special again to get into the top eight, but I'll never bet against her. It's so neat to see a kid like her end her career on this kind of note. She's such a leader and does everything you'd ever ask her to do.
"It really is fantastic for her."
And rounding out Wa-Hi's state team is the girls' 1600 relay, which finished fourth at regional in 4:04.93. Three freshmen, Ashley Cornia, Dominique Cox and Maggie Callan, and a junior, Kailee Davisson, teamed up to advance.
"This group just never fails to amaze me," Hisaw said. "I don't think they've said more than 100 words combined durning a meet all year, but when they step on the track their feet and heart do all the talking...
"They are so calm and business-like," he continued. "I've never had to tell them to warm up, get focused, etc. They get together and warm up, practice their handoffs, walk to the start line and just run by people.
"The amazing thing is that three of them are freshmen."
Overall, the Blue Devils are looking forward to the state competition, Hisaw said.
"It's going to be a great three days for us, and hopefully the kids all perform to the level they are capable of," he said. "This is as big as it gets, and it's such a great experience for them to be a part of a state meet. It's something they'll remember for the rest of their lives as there are no guarantees for next year.
"They have done us all extremely proud this season and I can't wait to see them attack this meet."