Freshman comes up big in short relay, Jesuit wins title

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit freshman Claire Corbitt got past Sunset's Taylor Coon to help the Crusader girls win the 4x100 relay at the Metro District Championship on Friday.

Claire Corbitt's call to arms for the Crusader girls' track team at the Metro League Championships went something like this.

Alexa Dixon's a scratch. Grab your cleats. You're running the anchor leg of the 4x100 relay. And, oh yeah Sunset's Taylor Coon — a state champion sprinter and the fastest girl in Metro — is going to be in the adjacent lane, breathing down your neck.

No pressure, right?

As a freshman running her first ever district meet, the Jesuit sprinter was thrust into the spotlight early when Dixon couldn't go in the short relay. But, when the race reached its climatic peak with 100 meters to go and the baton in her right hand the youngster didn't wilt, even as Coon came tearing down the backstretch.

With her teammates having sown a slight lead over Sunset, Corbitt shifted into high gear halfway down the final leg and spread her body across the finish line just ahead of careening Coon for a 48.33 win on Friday.

“It was very exciting and stressful,” said Corbitt. “When they told me (Dixon) couldn't run I was frantically trying going over to the start and trying to get my steps ready for the race. I was pretty nervous, but it all worked out well.”

“(Corbitt) came up clutch,” said senior Abby Wachter. “She did exactly what she needed to do. We needed her and we got (the baton) around. We couldn't have asked her to do better. Last year we dropped the baton at districts, so it was a little bit of redemption.”

Using the Crusaders' opening victory as lighter fluid for the rest of the day, the Jesuit girls took first (184.83) over Sunset (123.5) to clinch the district crown. Despite not having the services of state returners Dixon and long jump/triple jumper Hadley Wilhoite, Jesuit got it done with numbers, putting a number of athletes in the finals that helped score team points. So, while Sunset won more individual titles, the Crusaders were the ones raising the team hardware above their heads.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit's Chloe Smith took second in both the 200-meter and 400-meter dash on Friday.

Wachter won the 300-meter hurdles (45.05) and took second in the 100-meter hurdles (15.82). The defending 300-meter district champ knew Southridge's Natalie Leckey was the girl she had to keep up with to clinch consecutive crowns. Wachter passed Leckey on some of the earlier hurdles, and that helped the senior stave off any sort of upstart from the Skyhawk standout.

“My weakest point is at the start,” noted Wachter. “I was trying to go out fast, get down quick and set it up at the end so I could finish strong. That's what I'm always supposed to do, and today thank goodness I executed. I'm glad it came together.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Jesuit's Abby Wachter and Sunset's Nicole Griffiths were neck-and-neck down the stretch of the 4x400 relay with the Apollos eventually taking first overall.

Jesuit received first places from JoJo Ananouko in the javelin (118-04) and Kathrina Slater in the pole vault (9-10), and a number of runner-up spots that were instrumental in moving past Sunset. Junior Chloe Smith took second in both the 200-meter and 400-meter dashes while Corbitt was second in the high jump.

Sunset certainly made Metro close and competitive for Jesuit, particularly in the heart-stopping 4x400 relay, the final event of the day.

Thanks to a great start from Maddie Thom, a sterling leg from Kasey Stavig, a lead-taking portion from Nicole Griffiths and Coon's stouthearted final 400, Sunset passed up Jesuit and held off Lincoln by two-tenths of a second for first place (4:00.91). After barely losing to Corbitt and company in the short relay to kick off the day, Coon couldn't end her Metro career without another team gold medal. And, the Arizona State soccer commit ran like it, holding off Lincoln's Tess Michaelson with a gutty, tank-emptying final 100 meters at the last second for the win.

“We needed a championship in the relay,” said Coon. “I haven't had a year at Sunset where I didn't win a relay so it means a lot. It wasn't terrible until I crossed the finish line and my legs stopped working. I knew it was my last race and I had to push through.”

Stavig's deciding second lap of the 4X400 came out of the blue as the sophomore soccer stay stormed up to Jesuit's Smith at the curve to even the race with two laps to go.

“I saw Smith and she beat me in the 400 so I really wanted to get revenge,” said Stavig. “I saw (Smith) and was like 'This is my chance to do it'. She ran a great race, but I was really happy I could help my team move up. I saw (Griffiths) at the finish line and just knew I had to get it to her. That was my goal.”

Griffiths said she didn't want to go out too fast and get caught at the end, so the Apollo sophomore stayed on Wachter's heels and hung around until there were 50 meters to go. Then, Griffiths' kick set in motion, giving Coon enough distance to fend off Michaelson 400 meters later.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Sunset sophomore Kasey Stavigs strong second leg of the 4x400 relay helped the Apollos edge past Lincoln in the final race of the Metro League District Championship.

“I knew I had to stay with (Wachter) and I was able to,” said Griffiths. “I left enough in me so I could finish.”

Running her fourth race of the day on a pair of sore hamstrings, Coon took the stick from Griffiths, cut into lane one about 100 meters in and poured out every last ounce of energy and strength she had left.

“Honestly, after I cut in I don't remember the rest,” said Coon with a laugh. “I could tell I was in first the entire time, but you have no idea who's behind you. We have an awesome fan section over on that curve which was super helpful.”

Coon liked her start and how she was able to hold the lead in the 100-meter dash, but said she didn't feel as fast in the 200, mostly because Smith stayed within striking distance. But, the Apollo senior noted Smith's presence helped her the straightaway with more force, and gave her the giddy up for the 25.17 first place.

Griffiths passed Beaverton's Allison Mueller with 200 meters left in the 1,500, extending her gait down the backstretch to distance herself for the 4:41 win.

“I'm really excited about state,” said Griffiths. “I want to PR in that and moved up from place I got last year at state.”

Charlotte Corless took first in the 3,000 (10:17) for Sunset finishing ahead of teammates Audrey Huelskamp and Nicole Griffiths and Jesuit's Dylan Hite. As a senior who's highly-decorated both in cross country and track, the future Boise State Bronco said she was “humbled” to win another district title in her favorite race.

“I've very thankful, especially with the field I was up against,” said Corless. “They've beat me before and we always go back and forth. It keeps me in check. I didn't have the best season, but I was happy with how the race went.”

Sunset junior Savannah Sharp won both the discus (114-10) and shot put (38-04) for the Apollos.

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Southridge's Natalie Leckey won the 100-meter hurdles and took third in the 300-meter hurdles at the Metro League District Championship on Friday.

Battling painful plantar fasciitis and tendinitis in her Achilles and a strained quadriceps that hamstrung her long strides, Leckey looked the walking wounded on Friday. Taped and wrapped up on most her lower extremities, the standout hurdler with the best regular season 100-meter and 300-meter hurdle times in Metro gutted out a 15.74 in the high hurdles and a third place in the low's.

“I just wanted it,” said Leckey. “The most mentally tough person was going to win that race and that was going to be me. Absolutely nothing was going to come between me and winning that race, not even myself. I knew if all my attention, drive and focus was to win the race then I was going to win it, no one else.”

A year ago the district meet was “a huge struggle” for Leckey who said she “totally cracked under the pressure on the district's grandest stage. Injured this spring, but motivated to perform at her best, Leckey drew energy from her hurdle coach Alyssa Rife, who's helped Leckey get through the trials and tribulations

“She's the most mentally tough person I've ever known,” said Leckey said of Rife. “She's extremely intense and aggressive. And, she's my inspiration. I want to make her proud, and knowing if I'm mentally weak, that's not going to make her proud. I wanted to perform well for her and myself.”

Last season, the 300 hurdles were Leckey's better event, so the senior's goal over the summer was to get faster over the 100-meter hurdles by cleaning up her form.

“It means everything. I've been wanting to be a Metro champion for quite some time. I wanted to attack every hurdle so I could win Metro. I met my goal and I'm just so happy.”

Southridge long jumper Meghan Locke-Zimmerman was the Skyhawks' other first place finisher.

Westview was led by Reed Richardson who took first in the triple jump (35-09) and Hannah Garrity who won the high jump (5-02).

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