By Brendan Carl
Elma’s Ray Stark and Natalie Grant had already proved they were two of the best track athletes in Southwest Washington. On Saturday, Stark and Grant proved they are two of the best in the Northwest.
Stark and Grant were two of the 11 members of the Elma High School track team that traveled to Eugene, Ore., to compete in the Oregon Duals at the University of Oregon’s Hayward Field. Some of the best athletes in Washington, Oregon and Idaho competed in the meet to make the event a virtual who’s who of high school track in the Northwest. Stark, a senior, took second in the 300-meter hurdles, and Grant, a junior, ran the 400-meter dash three seconds faster than her personal best to finish 13th.
Stark took second at the Washington 1A state meet last year, but the talent in the field for the 300 was intimidating for the senior.
“I was nervous,” Stark said. “There were guys who were running two or three seconds faster than my PR from last year, but I got in the blocks and ran my race.”
The senior led the majority of the race, but clipped one of the final hurdles and finished three-10ths of a second behind Tyus Kuykendall of Sheldon, Ore., with a time of 39.62 seconds.
“There were some 6A state champions in that heat and he had it won,” coach Bryan Schnieder said. “He just barely clipped with his trail leg, which turned his hips just a little bit — 39.62 is flying and now he is ranked first in the state by about a second.”
Grant ran a time of 1 minute and 0.85 seconds in the girls 400. The juniors time moves her into the fourth spot in the state rankings, Schnieder said.
“They are big-time competitors,” Schnieder said of Stark and Grant. “The bigger the meet, the better they perform.”
In addition to placing second second in the 300 hurdles as an individual, Stark was one of the members of the Elma 4x400 team, along with seniors Chance Bremer, Rashad Lorton and Tyson Nauman, that placed 10th at the meet.
The meet was a good bonding experience for the team, Schnieder said, but mostly it is a chance to prepare for the district and state meets next month.
“It is better competition than our state meet,” Schnieder said. “It gets us prepared for our state meet and that is why we go. How competitive (our athletes) are and how serious they are. We didn’t go down there to have a slumber party. We went down there to compete. They aren’t doing track for a hobby.”