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Addition of Connelly makes Valiant girls' track dangerous

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior Sara Connelly won the 100-meter dash in just her second track meet ever on Thursday against Oregon Episcopal School.

Already the envy of every potential Lewis and Clark District and 3A enemy with the amount of returning speed back from last year, the Valley Catholic girls’ track team has added a swift boon to its swarm of sprinters.

At the urging of Valiant girls’ soccer coach Kayla Crandall, Valiant junior Sarah Connelly joined track in March looking to sharpen her already rapid set of wheels and hang out with many of the her soccer teammates, who won a state championship last fall.

“(Crandall) told me I was fast, so I decided to give it a shot,” said Connelly. “I guess all the soccer is paying off with the running and the sprints.”

Two meets into the season, Connelly is the talk of the track team so far, imparting her fleetness in the 100-meter and 200-meter dashes as well as the 4x100 team that’s only a 100th of a second away from being tops in 3A. On Thursday, Connelly shaved time from her personal record in the 100, dropping from a 14.1 at Valley’s first meet of the season to a 13.2 against Oregon Episcopal School. Connelly also placed third in the 200 behind teammate Hannah Rehm. Connelly said exploding out of the starting blocks was the cardinal cause for cutting so much time and taking first place ahead of teammate Reilly Blood.

“I got out a lot faster and drove harder,” said Connelly. “I love the adrenaline rush, and the team is great.”

Connelly’s personal record already shot her into the 3A’s 100-dash top-10, adding another greyhound to Valley’s sprinting stable of Rehm, Blood, Makenzee Cleveland and Mikaela Bernards. Bernards owns the fastest 100 finish in 3A, while Cleveland is the defending state champion in the 400. Cleveland, a University of Montana commit, also has the 3A’s best time in the 800 this season.

“We’re stacked this year,” said Connelly of the girls’ team. “We definitely have a lot of speed. I just hope I can add on and help the team out. I feel like this year could be a big one for us, and hopefully, we’ll get first.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic's Addie Flemmer finished fourth in the 100-meter and 300-meter hurdles against OES.

Strong finish

Connelly is the second leg of the Valiants’ 4x100 relay, teaming up with Cleveland, Bernards and Blood, who were each on Valley’s 2013 squad that took first at state.

Taking the place of 2013 graduate Claire McLoughlin, Connelly and company are only three-hundredths of a second from last season’s personal best, which was set under the lights of Hayward Field in the 4x100 state final.

“I’ve been watching them since I was a freshman, and I thought, ‘If I ever do track, I want to do this’,” said Connelly. “It’s a great group, and I love it. I’m always nervous to drop the baton, but we practice our handoffs every single day. We’re all comfortable with each other, so it makes for a good team.”

Rehm won a strong first heat in the 200, sidling past Connelly and Catlin Gabel’s Adele English for a 27.62 win. Located in lane one— the closet to the infield — Rehm said she “just had to go” and focus on her own race.

“I love the 200 because it goes so quick,” said Rehm. “I felt strong with how I hugged the curve, my start felt faster, and I finished strong. I ran through it, so it was a proud ending. I just knew I had to go out hard and finish strong.”

Rehm placed fifth in the 400 at state last year and said the goal this season is to break 1:02 in her main event.

Finishing the mentally laborious race is tough, Rehm admitted. It’s the area where the bulk of her training in practice is devoted.

“It’s painful,” said Rehm. “You’re just telling yourself, ‘Get one step forward. Keep moving, stay strong.’ A lot of it is form and getting across the line strong.”

by: TIMES PHOTO: MATT SINGLEDECKER - Valley Catholic junior TinTin Luu took first place in the javelin to help the Valiant girls track team trump Oregon Episcopal School on Thursday.

Playing the field

Team state championships such as the one Valley is hunting together, take getting contributions from field events as well. That’s where athletes like javelin thrower TinTin Luu come in.

Luu — a third-place finisher at the district meet last year with a personal best 95-08 — hit 86’ on Thursday in just her second meet of the season. The junior is only in her second year of throwing, but hopes to hit triple digits before the postseason.

“Now I have a sense of what I need to do and how I need to improve,” said Luu. “Districts isn’t until the end of May, so I still have time.”

Just this week Luu began incorporating a run-up into her javelin routine, rather than using three quick steps to build speed and momentum.

Starting from the back of the javelin runway, and darting to very edge of the blacktop, Luu let off a couple of forceful attempts into the rain and wind that helped her clinch first place.

Luu said throwing the javelin in general requires a total body evaluation of the hips, arms and legs to ensure all parts are working in unison. Blending a run-up has added more mental thinking to the routine, yet Luu’s liked the transformation.

“It made me feel faster and more powerful for sure,” said Luu. “Now I just have to use it to its fullest extent. When you pick up a javelin, it feels super light. But, it’s fun to see football guys come out and try to chuck it as far as they can, but it goes nowhere because it’s all about the form. Strength is a factor, but it’s all about discipline and trying to train your body to get to the position it needs to get to.”

Valley sophomores Maricela Jaroch and Ermina Lane took first and second in the 1,500. Blood won the 300 hurdles, and Ellen Houkel took first in the high jump (4-10). Senior Patricia Nguyen cleared 6-06 in the pole vault for another Valiant first place.

Sophomore Rachel Jones sailed 13-11 into the sand pit to take first in the long jump, and junior Ella Turkot placed first in the triple jump (33-03). Senior Addie Flemmer was second in both jumping events.



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