Track and field athletes, a solitary lot, have one chance to get it right.
There are no seven-game series, fourth-quarter rallies, ninth-inning heroics or third-set comebacks to bail out sub-par efforts earlier in the game.
Instead, track and field offers one moment to pull together all the training and measure up to a challenge. It’s the true essence of sport, most dramatically illustrated in the 100-meter dash. Everything is settled in 11 seconds or less.
Saturday afternoon before thousands of spectators at Eagle High School, Wood River High School senior Ian Keys toed the starting line of the State 4A boys’ 100-meter dash.
He was the top 100m qualifier of all athletes—big schools or small—in the 96th annual Idaho High School Track and Field Championships.
Keys rose to the challenge, easily winning the 100m dash in a wind-aided 10.85 seconds and later in the day capturing the 200m dash in 22.07 seconds, again with a wind factor.
Those times approximated the school records Keys established at the state-qualifying Great Basin Conference meet in Twin Falls May 8-9 when he won 100m in 10.80 seconds and added the 200m district victory in 22.07 seconds.
On Saturday, four-year Wolverine track performer Keys thus became the first Wood River athlete to ever win the 100m dash at the state meet.
His 200m dash victory at state elevated Keys to the lofty Wolverine status occupied by Lisa Bernhagen, who captured four consecutive state 200m titles from 1981-84 and still holds the girls’ class 200m record of 25.14 set 29 years ago.
Wood River High’s previous top 100m placers at the state meet, then in the A-2 class, were Alan Schwartz in third place at 11.24 seconds in 1987 and Aaron Baker third 11.57 in 1988. Baker was second in 200m at the same meet 25 years ago.
But the Keys 100m victory Saturday came with drama.
In Friday’s preliminaries, Jerome senior Tyler Branch posted the best qualifying time for Saturday’s final with a wind-aided 10.74 seconds, with Keys right behind at 10.98. So they lined up next to each other in Saturday’s final—Branch in lane No. 4 and Keys in No. 5.
The starting gun fired, followed immediately by a second gunshot signifying a false start.
Who was it?
Keys and Branch seemingly broke at the same time, in fact, Keys had a terrific start. Wood River coach Monte Brothwell said afterwards it was too bad there was a false start in the 100m because the state record might have been broken.
Later, before the 100m awards ceremony, sixth-place finisher Malik Whitfield of Mountain Home commented to Keys that he thought Keys had been called for the false start.
But Keys said he knew he hadn’t false-started.
It turned out to be Branch, who walked off the track, stunned by the turn of events, leaving Keys and the other sprinters to regroup for another start. Keys said, “I lost focus for a minute, but got it back quickly. I kept telling myself I was a senior and this was my last 100m high school race.”
Keys broke cleanly again, took control about 30 meters down the track and powered with his strong kick to a convincing .22-second win over Moscow senior Chase Lanham.
Only Meridian junior Bryson Stout (wind-aided 10.82) clocked a faster time than Keys in winning the 5A boys’ state 100m title among sprinters in the five Gem State classifications contested last weekend in the Treasure Valley.
“I’m excited,” said Keys right after the race. He added he was confident in racing against Branch, having beaten the Jerome senior in their previous 100m dash clashes.
When asked if he races against a worthy challenger like Branch or against the clock in a record-setting pursuit, Keys replied without hesitation, “I race to win.”
Hopeful of running for Boise State University in the future, Keys (a wind-aided 22.07) defeated Minico High School senior Caleb Worley (22.32) by .25 seconds in the 200m dash.
Fired up by Worley and his senior teammate Jordan Browning, the Minico Spartan boys (31 points sprints, 3 hurdles, 22 relays, 20 field) captured their first-ever State 4A team championship by a slim 76 to 74.75 margin over three-time defending champion Rigby (5 sprints, 4 distances, 14 hurdles, 14 relays, 37.75 field).
Wood River tied for 11th of 23 schools with 20 points, all delivered by Keys.
Other point-getting performances for the nine Wood River state track athletes:
3—Sara Lichtenberg high jump (5-0).
6—Haley Montgomery 800m (2:26.83, personal record) and 3200m (11:53.45, personal record).
8—Kenya Schott 800m (2:30.08, personal record).
Janel Passey set a personal record of 5:42.78 in placing 15th in the girls’ 1600m run.
Other Hailey results: Alexis Gonzalez 15th 800m (2:14.31), 16th 1600m (4:55.80) and 14th 3200m (10:41.98); Chase England 9th 3200m (10:08.91) and 11th 1600m (4:36.39); and Taylor Douthit 15th discus (103-4).
The Wood River girls (13 points) tied for 15th place as a team. With 147 points, Rigby (33 sprints, 16 distances, 24 hurdles, 36 relays, 38 field) won its first State 4A girls’ team title since 2009 and fourth overall over defending champion Bishop Kelly of Boise (100.5).
Other state team champs:
· 5A: Rocky Mountain boys third straight title; Eagle girls first title since 2010 and fifth overall over two-time defending champ Mountain View.
· 3A: Sugar-Salem of Sugar City swept boys and girls, the Digger boys winning their first title and Sugar girls second straight and fifth in seven years.
· 2A: West Side won the boys’ and girls’ championships, third in four years for the boys, and first-ever for the girls.