It was a bittersweet day for Preston’s track & field programs.
From a team standpoint, it was a memorable Friday for the Indians, who shared the 4A Fifth District title with Century on the boys side (70 points each) and edged Pocatello for the first-place trophy on the girls, 72-68.
However, because Preston, Pocatello and Century are stuck in a three-team district, several quality athletes missed out on state qualifying bids. There are no automatic qualifying standards in Idaho, so individuals and relay teams must punch their ticket solely based on their performances at the district meet. Only the top two individuals and district champion relay squads are awarded qualifying positions in this district.
“I’m excited for the team,” PHS head coach Brandon Lyon said. “This is as competitive of a district as there is in the state, so to come away with a district championship as a team is a really big accomplishment for the kids.”
It was a heartbreaking day for Preston’s girls 4x400 relay squad, which easily posted the second-fastest time in the 4A classification this spring. The problem is Pocatello was a half second faster. Lyon used the word “sickening” when explaining how his best girls 4x400 squad in at least 12 years won’t have a chance to compete for a state title.
Taylor Romney, Kylie Larsen, Riley Ward and Elly Jeppsen teamed up to clock in at 4:06 in the 4x400. Jeppsen threw down a 58.5-second split.
“Pocatello is going to win the state title,” Lyon proclaimed. “If we were in it, we’d win state. If we were both in it, we’d go 1-2.”
The Preston girls were led by hurdler Mickayla Robertson, thrower Akazia Knapp and standout freshman middle distance/distance runner Angelie Scott. Robertson beat all comers in the 100 hurdles and 300 hurdles, as did Knapp in the discus (96 feet) and shot put. Not all of the times and distances were available as of Friday’s deadline for the Herald Journal.
Scott captured a gold medal in the 1,600, a silver in the 3,200 (11:45) and a bronze in the 800 (2:24). Jeppsen was the runner-up in the 400, as was Romney in the 800 and Larsen in the 300 hurdles. Chakobi Lewis was triumphant for Preston in the pole vault.
Samantha Whiteley placed third in the high jump (4-10), while Olivia Tracy was third in the triple jump. Lyon is pretty confident both girls will receive wildcard entries to state, and is hopeful Ward will be selected in the 1,600. No such allowances are made for relay teams.
Leading the charge for the Preston boys was Brecker Knapp, who bested his competition in both hurdles races. Charles Iverson gave Preston a 1-2 sweep in the 110 hurdles.
The Indians also went 1-2 in the high jump. Taite Priestley cleared the bar at 6-8 for the fourth straight meet — he went 6-10 a couple weeks ago — and teammate Tyler Lindhardt was successful at 6-2.
Priestley has been competing all season long was a torn meniscus in his plant foot — an injury he suffered during the basketball season.
“There is a considerable amount of pain that has gone into my season,” said Priestley, who is Idaho’s best high jumper regardless of classification. “I’ve had to limit the amount of practices and the amount of meets that I could participate in, making my torn meniscus not only a physical pain, but a mental hindrance as well.”
Benson Palmer soared over the bar at 13-6 to claim the gold medal in the pole vault for Preston, while teammate Kimble Rigby (12-6) was the runner-up. Nick Nielson earned the right to stand on the top spot of the podium in the long jump (20-6.75) for the Indians, as did teammate Cole Harris in the 400.
Preston’s Sam Jeppsen was the silver medalist in the 1,600 (4:26) and 3,200 to Poky’s Shane Gard. Jeppsen and Gard, the reigning 4A cross country champion, are two of the best distance runners in the entire state.
Another Preston boys who finished second individually was freshman Russell Kunz in the triple jump (40-10). Lyon is hopeful Edison Leffler will receive a wildcard bid to state in the 3,200, as well as Brayker Smith in the high jump (5-10).
Leffler was one of five boys from the district who completed the 3,200 in less than 10 minutes Thursday. Preston and Poky were far and away the top two 4A cross country programs last fall, so the boys distance races during the track season are an absolute dogfight.
Both Preston squads should challenge for trophies at next week’s 4A State Championships.
“There isn’t a comparison to being on Preston’s track team,” Priestley said. “All of the kids are good people to be around and are fun in different ways."