By Kyle LoJacono
Three years, three district championships.
The Steinbrenner girls track and field team has made claiming league crowns look easy, as the fourth-year program hoisted the Class 3A-District 8 championship April 17 at Gaither.
The Warriors scored 161 points, besting Hillsborough by 17. King was third (98.5) and Gaither took fourth (64) at the nine-team meet.
Steinbrenner captured only one district title at the meet but scored in 16 of the 17 events.
The Warriors also qualified athletes in 11 events for regionals April 24 at Leto.
“My philosophy has always been the same: cover all the events, score in every single event and treat every event as important as the next,” said Ladd Baldwin, the only coach in program history. “We’re not a hurdle factory or a triple jump factory or a sprint factory. You try to be good in every event.”
Junior pole vaulter Jazmin Sabotker claimed district gold by clearing 9-feet to match the program and her own personal record (PR).
“I was a little nervous because I was seeded first, and that scares me a little bit,” said Sabotker, a first-year pole vaulter.
Fellow Warriors junior Loren Scherschel also cleared 9, but lost in a tiebreaker.
“She’s actually the one who taught me about pole vaulting, so it’s cool to finish first and second with her,” Sabotker said.
Scherschel PRed twice at the event.
“I was actually kind of skeptical coming in because I didn’t do so well in our last meet,” Scherschel said. “I only got 7-feet, so I didn’t have high hopes.”
Senior Jess Weatherman took second in the discus throw (105-08) with her best performance this season.
“I was really nervous and anxious,” Weatherman said. “My hands were all clammy. I just didn’t want this to make my last meet.”
Weatherman said she was angry after the shot put where she came in fifth (33-10.5), one spot from a regional berth.
“I had my chance to show what I could do in the shot, and I didn’t, so I had to come back in the disc,” Weatherman said. “It was my last chance to make it back to regionals.”
Steinbrenner scored 19 points in the long jump led by senior Jessica Brewer’s runner-up performance (16-09). Freshman Taylor Hotchkiss took third (16-06) and junior Nicole Dorsey was fourth (16-04).
“We all feed off each other’s energy, and it was really nice for all of us to make regionals,” Brewer said. “When we’re all doing well we really push each other to do our best.”
Hotchkiss PRed in both the long and triple (33-08.50, sixth place) jumps. She was the only Warriors athlete to score in four events and also advance to regionals in three, including the 100-meter hurdles (17.06 seconds, second) and 300 hurdles (50.16, third).
“I didn’t think I’d make regions in any event because it’s my first year,” Hotchkiss said. “Didn’t really expect a lot.”
Baldwin said Hotchkiss has impressed as a freshman.
“She’s been in practice and worked hard every day,” Baldwin said. “She’s also very coachable. I’ve thrown a bunch of different events at her, and she’s tried whatever we asked.”
Steinbrenner led 78 to 59 over Hillsborough after the six field events and the 4×800 relay and never trailed for the rest of the meet.
Senior distance runner Lauren Garris clinched the team title by finishing third in the 3,200 (13:00.02) to put her squad ahead of Hillsborough 160 to 137 with only the 4×400 remaining. She said she didn’t know she could lock up the championship until after the event.
“Coach said he needed me to score for the team, but I didn’t know it was that serious,” said Garris, who also took second in the 1,600 (5:36.16).
“Lauren had her best time of the year in the 1,600, the 3,200 and her time in the 4×800 was her best time this year too,” Baldwin said. “She had her three best races of the year on the day that we needed her to be able to beat Hillsborough.”
Gaither senior hurdler Jennifer Kingsley captured program history in claiming the 100 hurdles. She ran a 15.40 to set a new school record and was overcome with emotion when she heard her time while standing on the podium.
“I really didn’t think I had that in me,” Kingsley said. “I started off with a good race, really steady, but then I hit a hurdle near the end and thought it wouldn’t be a PR.”
Kingsley also placed second in the 300 hurdles in 47.47, a PR, just 0.03 seconds behind Hillsborough’s Tijah Ray.
“I’m just keeping my mind on states,” Kingsley said. “Before this year I didn’t really have the drive to work. This year I really want it.”
Cowboys 800-meter runner Rachel Cazares won her second district title in three years by running a 2:18.26 to win by 2.63 seconds.
“I was a little nervous,” Cazares said. “Rachel Favors from King really made it too close for comfort.”
The junior had a simple plan going into the event.
“I just was not going to slow down the whole way,” Cazares said. “I know if I keep up the pace that I want to run then I’m going to be OK.”
—Follow Kyle LoJacono on Twitter: @Kyle_Laker
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