Lakewood There’s something about state championships that can ruin some athletes, young boys and girls wilting on the biggest stage they’ll see in any high school season.
On the other end, there’s something about the state championships that brings out the best in Nic Paxton.
The Soroco High School senior was at it again at the state track meet in Lakewood, where he outperformed his seed, notched the best long jump of his career and landed in sixth place.
“I felt good,” Paxton said. “I came in today, said this is my last year ever doing track, and I was pumped up and ready to go.”
A year ago, Paxton entered as the No. 18 seed in long jump, and he managed to finish ninth. He entered the state meet this season with the 15th-best mark but once again outpaced his seed. On his second jump of the competition, he leaped to a career-best 20 feet, 2.5 inches, breaking past the 20-foot barrier for the first time. He did it again on his third jump.
“As soon as I took off from that board, I thought, ‘Oh yeah, this is good,’” Paxton said.
Paxton wasn’t able to better his mark in his three finals attempts, but he was plenty happy after the competition was over. He left the field Thursday hoping he’d be able to outperform his seed two more times Friday, when he’ll compete in the triple jump and in Soroco’s 1,600-meter relay.
On Thursday, he led the way for a pair of medal-worthy attempts for the Rams.
He was joined with a podium performance by Soroco’s girls 3,200-meter relay team. Josie Rossi, Leah Walorski, Jessica Rossi and Jaelyn Whaley teamed up to place ninth, and after crossing the finish line and seeing their time, the girls danced and laughed together in celebration.
It wasn’t just the medal-winning performance but the fact that the squad beat the previous school record by two seconds after finishing in 10 minutes, 31.32 seconds.
That team, too, came in seeded 15th but managed to soar past expectations.
Josie Rossi got the team off to a strong start on the first stage, and her teammates kept it up, each one logging their fastest splits of the season. Whaley anchored the race, burning down the home stretch in hopes of catching the school record.
“It was really exciting. I heard Josie and Jessica’s mom on the corner, and she said, ‘You’ve got the record. Go!’ So coming down the home stretch, that gave me that extra push,” Whaley said. “Beating the school record is something we’ve been trying to do for two years, so we are pretty happy about that.”
Hayley Johnson replaces Walorski on Friday when the team runs in the 1,600 relay.
A pair of Hayden High School athletes couldn’t quite break through in their 2013 state debuts. Senior Jorge Valdez finished 11th in the high jump, just missing finals with a leap of 19-1.5. Sophomore Jack Redmond placed 15th, reaching 19-0.
Soroco's boys 3,200 relay team placed 11th, in 8:47.60, just three seconds off the podium.
Soroco’s Kali Constine, meanwhile, finished tied for 16th in the girls high jump. She cleared 4-6.
Hayden’s Savannah Williams also will compete Friday, running in the 3,200, and Josie Rossi and Whaley will run the 800.
To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or email jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com