Rankin: Wa-Hi track athletes outrun coach's hopes

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WALLA WALLA - Enthusiastic is a word that just doesn't do justice when it comes to describing Eric Hisaw.

Hisaw brings unmatched energy to coaching the Blue Devil football and track and field teams.

And he was typically excited when he talked about the 82 boys and 74 girls turning out for the new track and field season.

"I've been as impressed as I've been in my 14 or 15 years here," Hisaw told U-B reporter Ken Morgan for a preview story last week. "They (the athletes) have just flat gotten to work. It's been fun to watch them get after things. It's been a great start."

But the Blue Devils may have exceeded even Hisaw's high hopes at the Sweeney Invitational in Lewiston last weekend. Wa-Hi's boys piled up 175 points to win the eight-team invite, while the girls finished second to Couer d'Alene with 108 points.

"It was a thrill to watch these kids compete and see the rest of the team support them," Hisaw said following the season-opening meet. "Kids were on every straight-away, corner, running back and forth, screaming at the top of their lungs. Everyone celebrated with this win. The kids love it and it really typifies the team we are - tough, strong and extremely competitive."

When it comes to describing the meet, Hisaw is not a loss for words.

"Our boys completely dominated this meet," he said. "We started the meet off with an unbelieveable 4x800-meter relay victory by JP Wolpert, Sean Hollenback, Ty Hafen and Greg Heller. They were just awesome!

"Our distance crew was really, really solid today," Hisaw continued. "Sean Newcomb and Paul Gilmore were just outstanding, but ran lifetime bests in the mile. They ran with a lot of heart, guts and through some pain.

"Greg Heller and Sean Hollenbeck showed their heart with fantastic 3,200-meter runs. Both guys challenged for the lead, ran confidently and ran very well. It was Sean's first track race ever. He did a great job."

The accolades continued in the field events.

"Quinn Piver had a really solid series in the shot put today with four throws over his lifetime best from last year," Hisaw said. "I'm really happy for him, he could become a real force for us.

"The race of the day was the boys 300-meter hurdles and, fortunately, our kids were involved. Kyle Jameson and Blake Gerling went 1-2 and were separated by one one-hundredth of a second. Both their times were their best times ever and are the fastest opening 300-meter hurdle times in school history. They were awesome.

"Jonah Hoe and Stuart Gillin were both very good for us in the sprints and relays as they went 1-2 in the 200 and were part of our second place 4x1 (Kyle Jameson and Blake Gerling were the other two).

"Sam Block, Peter Sirmon and Darnell Handcox were just super in the long and triple jumps," Hisaw continued. "All three placed and set a very high standard to continue to chase. They've had a great first two weeks of training, and it showed today. These three did a great job."

But the boys saved the best for last, with a win in the 1,600 relay.

"It's always great to finish a meet off with a win in the 4x4, but this one was exciting," Hisaw said. "JP Wolpert led us off with a very solid first leg, but Lewiston was in first by about 20 meters when Jonah Hoe got the baton, as our second runner, and by the time he passed four other teams in the final 175 meters, he gave the baton to Ben Wolpert, and we were back in first place. Ben ran a very solid leg and actually extended our lead a little in his first 4x4 and handed it to Blake Gerling, who held off Lewiston by two to three meters at the finish line.

"The boys won the team title!"

Hisaw didn't forget about his girls' performances.

"Our sprint team was outstanding today," he said. "I was really impressed with our 4x2 and 4x1 relays (with teams of Dominique Cox, Brittany Callan, Sarai Seekamp and Maggie Callan, and Jami Klicker, Ashley Cornia, Seekamp and Brittany Cornia, respectively). The girls really passed the baton well and were dominant from start to finish.

"I thought Dominique Cox was most impressive on the day," Hisaw continued. "Her 400 time and her relay splits were awesome. She was a real force today.

"I also was very impressed with our girl discus crew," he said. "Megan Thompson and Kat Tondavong threw very well. Both kids placed and started the year with a solid throw. They are hard workers and I'm happy for them to throw this well in week one.

"And our distance crew was solid," Hisaw concluded. "They ran and competed very well, and that's all we can ask. I thought Katherine Feistner and Lea Davidson both had very solid mile times, and McKelle Wilwand ran a lifetime best in the 3200.

"Great efforts by these gals!"

As a whole, the girls team brought high expectations from their coach.

"We finished second to Coeur d'Alene, which is loaded with talent, but I really was impressed with the team atmosphere, the encouragement and the kids' competitiveness," Hisaw said. "The girls really had a solid day today for meet number one. There were so many of their marks and times that are at, or are better, than when they finished the year last season.

"It really is exciting to think about where they could end up in May!"

And Hisaw has a message to Wa-Hi fans.

"It was a great way to finish off a fantastic day for our team," he said. "As a community, you should be extremely proud of them and how they represented you. These kids are awesome!"

You get a chance to see the Blue Devils in action when they host the Walla Walla Invite at Martin Field at 3 p.m. Thursday.

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