Remarkably, nearly half of those Eagles are freshmen.
“I’ve never had anything like this before,” Elma coach Bryan Schneider said. “It’s certainly rare.”
A total of six freshman – two from the boys’ team and four from the girls’ team – and all five of the Eagle’s relay teams will compete at Eastern Washington University for state supremacy May 26-27.
“They’re still freshmen. So at times it’s a little like trying to wrangle cats,” Schneider smiled, “but once that gun goes off they are all focused.”
The Elma freshman boys who are state-bound include Cody Vollan, who qualified in the 400 meters and is a member of both relay teams that advanced, and Jadyn Edenstrom, who joins Vollan and seniors Ira Hartford and Brandon Butcher to make up the Eagles’ 4×400 relay team.
Jillian Bieker heads the girls’ side. The gifted frosh captured three titles – two individual crowns and one as a member of a winning-relay team – at the 1A District 4 championships. She will be join at state by classmates Kayli Johnson, Beka Lensegrav and Kaya Aiken.
“They’re all competitors,” Schneider said. “Every one of them came right in this season and challenged for those top spots. They didn’t wait around just because they are freshmen.”
That was the case with Vollan, who despite never running the 400 before posted a time of 53.15 seconds in his first ever attempt at the Montesano Jamboree. He has only improved since, picking up victories against larger school competition at both the 57th annual Shelton Invitational and the Spudder Track and Field Classic.
At the annual Freshman Invitational at Centralia High School, Vollan crossed the wire in a meet-record setting time of 52.93 – a full 2 seconds faster than the next runner.
“There have been a lot of great runners compete at that meet. It’s a big deal when you set a record there,” said Schneider about Vollan’s performance which bettered the previous benchmark of 53.04 set by Chris Michels of Skyview 2003. “The funny thing was, Cody was disappointed in himself after the race because he felt he could have done better. This group is always looking to improve.”
Vollan did just that the next two times he ran the 400, finishing second to teammate Butcher at the 1A Evergreen League Championships with a time of 52.67 and third at the 1A District 4 meet with a personal record of 51.66.
“Cody and Brandon have pushed each other all season,” Schneider said. “It’s really made them better athletes.”
Vollan joins Butcher in both the 4×100 relay and 4×400 relay teams.
The 4×100 team, which also features junior Tanner Krippelz, finished third at the district championships with a time of 44.74. Speedy senior Ira Hartford and Edenstrom round out the Eagles’ 4×400 relay team, which collected second place at districts (3:33.45).
“I think that’s the most amazing thing about all of this,” Schneider said. “We’ve never had all five of our teams go to state before.”
Despite her young status, Bieker heads to the state meet already a school-record holder.
She claimed the district championship in the 300 hurdles with a winning time of 47.70 – a mark that was almost a full 2 seconds faster than the previous school record which was set 36 years ago.
“And she should have made state in the 100 hurdles too,” Schneider added. “She finished fourth, but one of the other runners actually caught her accidentally with an elbow. Otherwise she would be going to state in that event as well.”
As it stands, Bieker will have to settle for a trio of state events during her first year of high school as she also won the long jump at districts with a leap of 15 feet, 9 inches and joined fellow freshman Lensegrav and sophomores Jayla Mason and Maddie Clark on the Eagles’ district championship and school-record holding 4×200 relay team.
Johnson draws in, replacing Bieker, to join Lensegrav, Mason and Clark to form Elma’s 4×100 relay, which finished second at districts in a school-record time of 52.58.
Rounding out the Eagles’ trio of powerful girls relay teams is the 4×400 squad which finished third at districts and features Mason, Clark, senior Cheyanne Jines and freshman Aiken.
“It’s just a great group of freshmen. We knew they could be special coming in,” Schneider said. “I always like to have as many freshman go and experience state because it is so valuable. A lot of younger kids will be deer in the headlights (at the state meet) once they get there, but I don’t think that will happen with this group.”
Elma will compete on May 26 and 27 in Cheney, WA at the 1A State Championship Track Meet.