TRACK | Multiple South Kitsap athletes have state-title aspirations

Van Amen looks to repeat as discus champion at Mount Tahoma

The numbers do not appear favorable to South Kitsap’s prospects of winning a second Class 4A boys 1,600-meter relay championship in three seasons.

But senior Mason Villarma, who was on the school’s 2013 championship team in that event, believes the Wolves are performing better than two years ago as they enter Star Track XXXIII on May 29-30 at Mount Tahoma High School.

That is because South won that event in 3 minutes, 21.94 seconds, during the May 22-23 4A West Central District meet at Kent’s French Field. Villarma noted that time was better than any the ’13 squad posted until the state meet, where they ran 3:18.39.

South co-coach Paul Zimmer cautioned that the Wolves benefited when Olympia, which won the 4A Narrows League title in the 1,600 relay, could not finish that event at the district meet because one of its runners fell during the race.

“We had some lucky things pull our way,” he said.

But there were not enough of those occurrences for South as it finished four points behind first-place Tahoma (47).

The Wolves pushed for a district title behind the performances of multiple top placers. Villarma won the 1,600 meters in 4:16.99. That did not match his school-record 4:12.44 set at the 4A Narrows League Championships at Shelton, but that did not bother Villarma.

“Just getting first place is awesome because the postseason is all about tactical races,” he said. “It’s not really about time — it’s about placement.”

Villarma will enter state ranked third in that event behind Wenatchee’s Cole Christman (4:09.94) and Bellarmine Prep’s Jack Yearian (4:10.78). Despite that, he believes he can challenge for a championship.

“I feel really confident about the 1,600 right now,” Villarma said. “I know if I can make it a gutsy race, I can win.”

Villarma also won the 800 in 1:53.44 and will enter state seeded fifth in that event. But he believes that race will be difficult to win simply because there is “more competition.”

While Villarma seeks his first individual state title, sophomore Nolan Van Amen will attempt to defend his discus championship. Van Amen spun the discus 168 feet, 4 inches, to win that event at French Field. He also finished second in the shot put (54-06). But he might be better positioned to win a state championship in that event as he has the top mark in 4A (56-10) this season. Meanwhile, his best performance in the discus (168-04) is almost 10 feet short of Union’s Bailey King (178-03).

“He’s coming on,” Zimmer said of Van Amen. “I think we’re peaking at the right time.”

The Wolves’ other first-place finisher was senior Cole Sunkel in the javelin. His mark of 189-11 easily outdistanced teammate Chandler Van Amen (170-05). But Zimmer feels Sunkel might need to land at 200 feet — or more — to win a state title. Wenatchee’s Dalton Sugg (199-03) enters the meet with the top performance.

“Cole’s going to have to pop one to win the state meet,” Zimmer said.

Senior Albert McArthur also advanced to state in the long jump and triple jump, where he placed third and fourth, respectively, at the district meet.

On the girls side, South placed 13th with 20.5 points. Tahoma won the district title with 90.5 points. Senior Shannon Laupola won the javelin (124-04), while classmate Alexus Richardson finished third in the discus (117-11).

This will be Laupola’s third time at state.

“Shannon’s been a real competitor throughout the whole season,” Zimmer said. “She’s been behind two or three times this season and has popped one on the last throw.”

Richardson qualified for state for the first time. Zimmer said assistant coach Renard Williams, who won a state title in the shot put as a senior in 2007 at South, worked on Richardson’s mechanics before the district meet.

“She’s looking good and feeling confident,” Zimmer said.

He said that mentality is important for all of his athletes to succeed at state.

“We’ve done all of the work,” he said. “They just need to be confident. It’s a mental thing now.”

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