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West J girls, Salmon boys have historic day at 2A District 6 track

Salmon’s Ethan Aldous crosses the finish line of the boys 400 meters Thursday at the 2A District 6 track championships at Firth. Aldous won the 400 in 42.28, the 100 in 11.54 and contributed to wins in the boys sprint medley relay (3:40.42) and 4×400 (3:36.69) for Salmon, which repeated as boys team champions. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

By MARLOWE HEREFORD
mhereford@postregister.com

FIRTH—Before the 2A District 6 4×400-meter relay finals even started, giddiness set in for the members of the West Jefferson High School girls track team Thursday at Firth.

Upon hearing updated team scores, the Panthers learned they led defending district and 2A state champion Salmon 111-99. Even if Salmon won the 4×400, West Jefferson would still claim the team title by at least two points.

A third-place finish in the girls 4×400 behind Firth and North Fremont brought West Jefferson’s official victory margin to 115-99, prompting cheers, hugs and turns with the 2A District 6 trophy for photos. The district title is believed to be West Jefferson’s first in girls track. According to Post Register records dating back to 1997, all previous girls track district titles were won by Salmon or Firth.

“I’m so glad we got it,” said West Jefferson junior Jordi Holdaway, who went 4-for-4 in her district finals to contribute 40 points to the Panthers’ team title win. “I’m so proud of the hard work of all of my teammates. This is so cool.”

West Jefferson head coach Melinda Schwieder, who has coached the Panthers for six years and has been head coach for the last two, had high praise for her team at a meet that was every bit the battle she anticipated it to be with Salmon.

“Salmon had a strong showing in field events and we were behind going into today,” Schwieder said. “We knew it was gonna be tight. To see them accomplish this is awesome. It is surreal for me because I’ve been coaching these girls since junior high. I’m really looking forward to next week and seeing how we do.”

Jordi Holdaway anchors West Jefferson to the win in the girls 4×100-meter relay in 51.15 seconds Thursday at the 2A District 6 track championships at Firth. Holdaway also won the 100 hurdles (15.61), 300 hurdles (47.54) and anchored the 4×200 team to a win in 1:48.79 for the Panthers, who won the girls team title. John Roark/ jroark@postregister.com

In addition to anchoring the Panthers to wins in the 4×100 (51.15) and 4×200 (1:48.79), Holdaway won the 100 hurdles (15.61 seconds) and 300 hurdles (47.54). She won gold medals in the 200, 4×100 and 4×200 at state track last year and competed in those events this season as well as the 100, 200 and both hurdles. She said choosing her district events was difficult, but opted to put the 100 hurdles back in her repertoire and help the relays continue their success.

“I think there’s a lot of fun events,” Holdaway said. “In the 100 hurdles, I feel like I really just got better at it. I knew I wanted to do the relays because they’re my team and we want to get back-to-back state championships this year.”

Holdaway’s 4×100 and 4×200 teammates Mckenzie Sermon, Sage Wood and Audrey McDonald helped West Jefferson’s cause as well. Sermon won the 100 (13.09) and triple jump (33-10.75), Wood took second in the 200 (28.01) and McDonald won long jump (15-7). Additionally, Malaika Rogers placed second in the 100 (13.22) and third in the 200 while Allie Severe won the 1,600 (5:32.85), placed second in the 800 and third in the 3,200. Rogers and Severe also contributed to the 4×400’s third place finish.

On the boys side, Salmon repeated as team champions 148-87 over Firth. Per Post Register records, this is the first time Salmon has won back-to-back boys track district titles since 2004. Big contributors were individual winners Ethan Aldous in the 100 (11.54) and 400 (52.28), Hunter Tarkalson in pole vault (13-0) and 300 hurdles (40.44) and Andy Gebhardt in the 3,200 (10:14.66), 1,600 and 800 (2:03.96). Aldous also contributed to the sprint medley relay win (3:40.42) and 4×400 win (3:36.69) while Gebhardt was also in the sprint medley relay and led a 1-2-3-4 finish in the 1,600 with teammates Johnny Simmons, McClay Sommers and Treygan Bragg.

“We were hoping to do it in the 2-mile but it didn’t work out,” said Gebhardt, a sophomore. “It was a good meet. Our goal at the beginning of the season was to win districts again.”

Longtime Salmon head coach Frank Garrett credited a competitive district for preparing both his girls and boys for state, and he said he has been fortunate to have depth throughout his program.

“It’s been fun to watch our younger runners succeed and the leadership of our seniors,” Garrett said. “We’ve had a bit of a (state title) drought with our boys. If we compete as well as we did this week, we should do well next week.”

Among the meet’s multi-event winners not from West J or Salmon was North Fremont junior Garrett Hawkes, who cleared 6-0 to win boys high jump, leaped 41-11.5 to win boys triple jump, ran a personal best 14.76 to win 110 hurdles and placed second in 300 hurdles (40.60).

Defending 2A 110 hurdles state champion, Hawkes said he is hopeful for a hurdles sweep.

“I was hoping to end this week with four (golds), but that’s okay,” Hawkes said. “It just gives me more motivation. Boys 2A 300 hurdles is gonna be the race at state.”

Firth was third in the girls team standings with 80.5 points, Ririe was fourth with 39 and North Fremont was fifth with 38.5. Ririe placed third in the boys team standings with 48.5 points, North Fremont was fourth with 43 and West Jefferson was fifth with 36.5. The top three individual finishers and top relay teams automatically qualified for next week’s 2A state meet in Middleton. Firth coach and meet director Paula Tucker said complete meet results will not be posted on athletic.net until state meet at-large bids are determined Sunday and she requested that they not be printed in full until then.

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