Cache-Box Invitational 36

Preston’s Taylor Romney (second from right) and West Side’s Ashlyn Willis (far right) compete in the 800 meters at the Cache-Box Invitational earlier this season. Romney was the 4A state runner-up in the event, and Willis the 2A state champion in the event.

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It was a long wait for Ashlyn Willis, but a very worthwhile one.

The West Side senior powered her way past the competition in the 800 meters on the second and final day of the 2A State Track & Field Championships, which concluded Saturday at Middleton High School. Willis clocked in at 2 minutes, 22.01 seconds, which was more than two seconds faster than the silver medalist.

“It honestly means everything,” Willis said. “After spending two years working towards this big goal, it was great to finally reach it. After losing last year due to COVID, I came back with huge expectations and wanted to end strong and do what I wasn’t able to do last year, and I did just that. And I have my amazing coaches to thank for it.”

Willis followed up her performance in the 800 by earning a medal in the 1,600. The future College of Southern Idaho runner placed fourth with another personal record time — this one a 5:33.14.

“The fact that I PRed in all my events was awesome,” Willis said. “I had big goals for this meet and I accomplished all of them, so I’m super excited about that.”

Another West Side girl who achieved all of her primary objectives was freshman Aubrie Barzee, who followed up Friday’s school record setting and gold medal winning effort in the 3,200 by reigning supreme in Saturday’s 1,600. Barzee completed the race in 5:20.80, which was more than three seconds faster than her nearest competitor.

Barzee and Willis also teamed up with Madalyn Barzee and Letti Phillips to win the bronze medal in the 4x400 relay (4:15.73). Additionally, Phillips finished seventh in the 300 hurdles (49.30) for the Lady Pirates, who were agonizingly close to leaving with the fourth-place trophy. West Side finished fifth with 59.5 points, which was only 3.5 points out of second place.

The West Side boys were able to travel home with some hardware as they held off Nampa Christian for third place by one point, 55 to 54. Salmon racked up 115 points and prevailed on the boys side, while the Melba girls pulled away from the competition with 89 points.

The West Side boys were led by Bryler Shurtliff, who won a medal in all four of his events. The junior placed fourth in the 100 (11.48), sixth in the 200 (23.47) and joined forces with Parker Moser, Josh Reeder and Jaxon England to finish fourth in the 4x400 (3:33.68). Shurtliff was the runner-up in Friday’s long jump.

Reeder was the bronze medalist in the 400 (51.34), while teammates Andrew Olinger and Easton Henderson placed fourth in an individual event — Olinger in the discus (127-4) and Henderson in the 110 hurdles (15.85). Henderson was eighth in the 300 hurdles (44.99).

West Side’s Brentan Noreen occupied the No. 6 spot on the podium in the 800, thanks to his career-best clocking of 2:03.73.

4A STATE MEET

A pair of Preston athletes captured silver medals on Day 2 of the 4A State Championships, which were contested at Rocky Mountain High School.

Preston junior Taylor Romney just missed out on individual glory in the 800, but still shattered her own school record with an impressive time of 2:16.28. The top three competitors in that race were separated by a mere three-10ths of a second.

“I knew it was going to be close the whole race because of the talented girls in the race, and I gave everything I had down the last 100 meters,” Romney said.

Romney is a sure fire Division I college prospect if she can shave a few seconds off this time as a senior.

“I feel like I’ve got more in me and I think next year there are still some improvements to make,” she said. “So between now and then, I’m going to keep working and we’ll see what happens.”

Preston’s other Saturday silver medalist, 1,600 and 3,200 school record-holder Sam Jeppsen, has already signed with a D-I program. The future Idaho State Bengal lowered his own record in an absolutely loaded 1,600 field. Jeppsen (4:19.34) was one of four athletes that completed the race in less than 4:20.

The girls 1,600 field was also extremely deep as Preston’s Angelie Scott broke her second school record in as many days, but the freshman’s stellar time of 5:09.97 was only good enough for sixth place.

“I don’t think so,” PHS head coach Brandon Lyon said when asked if there has ever been this much depth among 4A’s distance runners. “It’s crazy the depth (there was this season). It made for some very tight races.”

Elly Jeppsen, Sam’s younger sister, capped off a strong freshman season by claiming the bronze medal in the 400 (59.01). Jeppsen only clocked in .26 behind the champion, who is a senior from Century.

Preston’s Brecker Knapp recorded the fifth-fastest times in the 110 hurdles (15.85) and 300 hurdles (15.85), while teammate and fellow three-sport athlete Cole Harris placed sixth in the 400 (51.32). Mickayla Robertson finished seventh for the Indians in the 100 hurdles (16.49).

The Preston boys finished sixth and racked up 44 points, which was only five points shy of the team that left with the fourth-place trophy. The Preston girls were 10th with 29 points.

Bishop Kelly swept both team titles and accumulated 103 points on the girls side and 97 on the boys.

Jason Turner is a sports reporter for The Herald Journal. He can be reached at jturner@hjnews.com or 435-792-7237.

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