Led by seven first-place finishes across both teams, both Sandpoint’s boys and girls teams won the 23rd-annual Priest River Invitational on Saturday afternoon.
Although coming off short rest from Thursday’s Christina Finney Relays prevented the team from stacking the heats, the boys and girls won by comfortable margins, placed well and — especially amongst throwers and distance runners — saw personal and season bests go down.
Here’s a handful of highlights from last weekend.
Kaitlynn Stewart and Brandon Casey lead throwers to big week
It’s time to talk about the throwers.
Tucked in the dustiest corner of any given track meet — plus usually on a nearby field for discus — Sandpoint’s junior-heavy throwing team has been climbing up the 4A IEL ranks.
Right now, four girls (Makayla Chapman, Kaitlynn Stewart, Victoria Aylward and Kayla Remsen) are in the district’s top-five rankings, while Casey and fellow junior Jake Suhr are in the top three for both throws.
This rise in the rankings comes from the teams’ performances at Priest River and the Christina Finney Invites last week.
On Saturday, Brandon Casey won the discus with a new PR of 129-3, then nearly missed setting a PR in the shot with his second-place finish of 42-8. On the girls’ side, Stewart nudged closer to the 100-feet mark in the disc by throwing a 98-3.
Earlier in the week, Stewart’s 94-feet throw at the Christina Finney Relays nearly broke her lifetime PR of 94-3. Her throw at Priest River left no doubt: Stewart set a new PR, placed third at the meet, and rose up to second in the 4A IEL discus rankings.
Nikolai Braedt wins 3200, nearly breaks 10
Aided by teammate Brady Nelsen running by his side and a favorable break in Saturday’s rain, sophomore Nikolai Braedt won the 3200 in a 10:02.64.
The win not only gave Braedt a new PR, but also a fourth event in which he could realistically compete at the state meet. Braedt leads the 4A IEL in the 800 (2:04.17), 1600 (4:34.22). 3200 and could run a leg of Sandpoint’s 4x400 team, should it win the district.
This is a good problem to have for an individual, but involves quite a bit of calculus for the team. Auto-bids to the state meet go to the top two finishers at districts; in order to maximize Sandpoint’s presence at state, Braedt will focus on the 1600 — and possibly the 3200 — from this point forward.
“I’ll most likely do the mile,” Braedt said. “It’s the perfect balance — I love how formulaic it is. I love the 3200 too, but I haven’t mastered it yet. In the mile, I always feel like I’m in that race.”
Mastered or not, Braedt controlled the race from the starting gun. He and Nelsen separated themselves from the pack early on, then started lapping the back of the pack towards the end. The teammates traded laps until Braedt flashed his mid-distance speed in the last lap.
“I’m so lucky that Brady was there to get me going from the first mile,” Braedt said. “I went out way too fast, slowed down a lot in lap six and seven. When think back, I could’ve really gone faster [in those laps], but I’m really happy with how it went.”
Braedt will run the true mile at the Timberlake Invitational this Friday, in which he hopes to stick with Timberlake’s Logan Hunt and break 4:30.
Niah Brass sets new season record in 3200
Senior captain Niah Brass and fellow senior Chloe Braedt placed second and third in the 3200 meters on Saturday. From an outsider’s perspective, the story could start and end there.
Peel back the curtain, however, and Brass’s 12:39.39 is a formidable mental step forward in a season of tribulations.
In what should have been a storybook send-off to her high school racing career, the senior has fought a secondary mono infection all season. Although the sickness hasn’t completely sidelined her, its effects are most evident in every near-collapse at the finish line, the feelings of numbness in her hands and forearms after a hard race, or the lack of a distinct kick at the end of her races.
Yet in spite of it all, she’s still on the track.
“It’s made me adjust my expectations, so I have to take it as it goes,” Brass said. “It’s been frustrating and really annoying, but there’s not much I can do except control my attitude and work hard.”
There’s no doubt Brass has put in the work. She still shows up to all the practices, from the offseason runs, to the mid-week weightlifting sessions, whenever she has the energy. And with exception of a four-day rest period that kept her out of the Christina Finney Relays, she toes the line at every opportunity to compete.
She hasn’t decided on whether or not she’ll run the mile or the 3200 on Saturday; Brass recognizes her best shot at making state is lowering her 3200 meter time, yet the opportunity to run a true mile — the mile is 1609.34 meters, not 1600 — under the lights is an opportunity few runners would pass up.
“It’s really exciting because it’s under the lights,” Brass said, grasping for the right words to describe the racing atmosphere at Friday’s meet. “It’s really special. It’s in a good point in the season where people run fast times.”
In a sense, Brass has been training for this season her whole career. Running, at its core, is a sport of perseverance. Its essence is in the sixth and seventh laps of the 3200s that Brass has run so often in her career. During these trying times, runners can either succumb to the sore legs, side cramps, dry mouths and heavy breathing. Or they can push past the pain to discover that most barriers of physical pain aren’t as large as the mind perceives them to be.
So every time Brass toes the line this season, consider that she’s already chosen the latter. And she’s still pushing.
Sara Hathaway carried the Lady Cats
In non-Sandpoint news, one could make an argument that Clark Fork sprinter/jumper/hurdler/doer-of-everything Sara Hathaway had the best all-around individual performance of the meet.
The junior won both the 100 hurdles (17.16) and the 300 hurdles (48.86), placed sixth in the 100 (14.07) and second in the high jump (5-0). All marks were season bests.
Hathaway accounted for all 31 of the Wampus Cats’ points to place ninth out of 14 teams.
A full Priest River report will be in tomorrow’s edition.