by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic's Julia Clark, Hannah Rehm, Makenzee Cleveland and Reilly Blood celebrate their state title-clinching 4x400 relay at the 3A State Championsihp on Friday.

How do you want to be remembered as a team?

What do you want your lasting legacy to be when the record books are opened and the state champions are fondly reminisced about 20 years from now?

The Valley Catholic girls’ track and field team pondered over these inquiries as it set about securing a state championship, motivated by last year’s near miss, impelled to leave an indelible mark in its final year competing on the 3A landscape. They wanted to leave on top, with a first place trophy.

And, as far as farewells go, it’ll be hard to reproduce what the Valiants consummated on Friday night at Hayward Field.

Collecting climatic achievements from decorated fast-paced sprinters and clutch outings from its interconnected relay squads, Valley verified its place in 3A lore, beating Vale, 73-65, to take home the 3A team state championship under the Hayward lights.

“We wanted to come out here with a bang,” said sophomore Reilly Blood. “We did great and so did our competition. We couldn’t have asked for better teams to race against. We had a lot more people come to state this year, which was awesome, because that gave us more points. I think we did awesome.”

“For our girls’ team to do so well as a whole, it’s the best way to go out of 3A,” added junior Hannah Rehm. “We’re so proud of ourselves. Our team is so strong, and we have the best coaches. There’s always nerves, but coming back for a second time always helps. There was a lot of excitement this year. We knew what we needed to do, so it was just great, nervous energy.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic freshman Julia Clark hands off to Reilly Blood for the third leg of the 4x400 relay at the 3A State Championships on Friday.

Ahead by just three points going into the 4x400 relay — the final event of the day — Blood, Rehm, freshman Julia Clark and Makenzee Cleveland each went to the well and pulled out unequaled legs of the race, with a gritting Cleveland taking the baton across the finish line first for the 4:05 victory. The relay win sealed the team title.

“I can’t even explain it,” said Clark. “Without these girls I probably wouldn’t have done what I just did because I was so nervous. They were helping me through the whole thing. There was such chemistry with us and great competition.”

“As a team, we really had a lot of great support,” added Blood. “We knew we had to prepare (Clark) for all the people and just the nervous anxiety, but we all did a really good job of focusing and talking between our team to prepare.

It was Cleveland’s third first place of the day, after the senior took first in the 400 (59.06) and helped the Valiants’ 4x100 relay set a school and state meet record (49.80).

Cleveland said individually she focused on the small amount of recovery time between winning the 400 and preparing for the 800, so her muscles “didn’t go crazy”. Instead of making a beeline to the awards stand the senior jogged and stretched around the infield. Then, she climbed the podium to receive her first place medal, then bolted back to the warm-up area to prep for the 800. As opposed to last season when Cleveland said she hit a wall during the two-lap event, the University of Montana commit had enough energy in the tank to take third overall.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior Makenzee Cleveland successfully defended her 400-meter dash state title at the 3A State Championships on Friday and helped the Valiant relays take first as well.

“It’s just an awesome feeling,” said Cleveland. “Setting a meet record and school record in the (4x100 relay) was great. I got the back-to-back 400 titles, and I’m proud of my 800 even though I didn’t get first. The 4x400 just topped it all off. It’s a great way to go out in my senior year individually and time-wise.”

Senior Mikaela Bernards was likewise instrumental in Valley’s team accomplishment on the state’s biggest stage, taking second in the 100-meter (15.83) and 300-hurdles (47.16), sixth in the 100-meter dash (12.83) and anchoring the short relay triumph. Blood placed third in the 300 hurdles (47.81) while Rehm was fifth in the 400 (1:01). Ellen Koukel cleared 4-08 in the high jump for seventh place.

Ella Turkot took sixth in the triple jump though the junior’s focus was understandably off-set after senior teammate Addie Flemmer injured her Achilles’ tendon and couldn’t finish her flight.

“It was really hard to see because (Flemmer) doesn’t deserve it,” said Turkot. “It’s her senior year at state. I wanted her to to do her best, but she didn’t get the opportunity. I’ve been injured a lot this season, so that’s probably what hurt the most: sympathy from one injured to another.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic senior Mikaela Bernards took second in the 100-meter hurdles at the 3A State Championships on Friday to help the Valiants take home a team title.

Turkot slid into the pit on her first attempt and said she “struggled” to get a mark on the next five attempts. Yet, on her final jump, Turkot took for a 33-07 leap which gave Valley four valuable points in the team race. A question mark going into the Lewis and Clark district meet as well as state because of a nagging back injury, Turkot gnashed her teeth and toughed it out for the Valiants.

“I told my coaches I’d do what I could,” said Turkot. “It’s fun seeing an individual feeling be turned into a team event. Even if you don’t get on the podium, just being here and qualifying for state is an honor.”

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