Meet Auburn Mountainview’s 400-meter relay team, from left: Chris Penn, Brian Njoki, Jeremiah Penn and Bill Benjamin. The foursome looks to make another run at the state gold in late May. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

Meet Auburn Mountainview’s 400-meter relay team, from left: Chris Penn, Brian Njoki, Jeremiah Penn and Bill Benjamin. The foursome looks to make another run at the state gold in late May. MARK KLAAS, Auburn Reporter

In crowded fast lane, Lions sprint crew sets the pace

Auburn Mountainview relay team returns with state experience

Auburn Mountainview’s track and field team has plenty of speed to burn.

And that’s a good thing, considering the Lions are in fast company.

Few districts in the state can match the swiftness of the West Central’s deep lineup, which includes the North Puget Sound League. The competition promises to be just as quick this season. School records may be in jeopardy.

The Lions, for instance, have one of the state’s best 400-meter foursomes, returning three of the relay’s four legs in senior Bill Benjamin, senior anchor Chris Penn and his brother, Jeremiah, a sophomore.

With Talan Alfrey, the relay took third place at the state 4A finals last May in a school-record 42.39 seconds.

“We trained really hard for that,” Chris Penn said of capturing the bronze. “Before the meet we warmed up a lot, we got hot, and we were a little tired, but we still managed to get the record.”

Alfrey, a three-sport athlete, has since graduated and attends Brigham Young University on a football scholarship. In steps senior Brian Njoki, who was a sprint relay alternate last year.

“We really have four of the kids back,” said assistant coach Kent Rodseth, who oversees the sprinters and jumpers. “It’s just a matter of arranging them in the best position that we can get them. … They’re a good group. Like all good athletes, they test you sometimes as a coach but they understand the big picture, what you’re trying to do.”

The group is humble, makes no bold predictions and welcomes the challenge of carrying a heavy load of running individual sprint races along with fulfilling relay responsibilities.

The Lions also could surprise in the 1,600 relay.

“If we can stay healthy, which the warm weather helps, that will be a key for us. As it warms up, the times drop,” Rodseth said. “We train for May.”

Chris Penn returns as one of the state’s top sprinters, with personal bests of 11.0 in the 100 and 22.24 in the 200.

“Chris is an athlete who has improved so much from his freshmen to senior year,” said Lions head coach Joel MacDougall. “I really think this could be a huge season for him.”

Benjamin is versatile as a sprinter and jumper. Jeremiah Penn finished last season with the fastest freshman 100 (11.08) and 200 (22.64) times in the state.

Lions den

In the pole vault, senior Kacey Provo reset the school record he broke last season by climbing 15 feet at the Cardinal Relays in Orting last Saturday. Despite nursing a sore hand, Provo went 14-9 to take the silver in last spring’s marathon 4A finals, which finished at dusk.

“Kasey is such a smooth vaulter and someone who doesn’t get flustered, which is a huge asset in an event that takes such mental toughness,” McDougall said.

Brennen Hanson, a state-class wrestler, has gone 13 feet and joins Provo to compose one of the state’s best pole vault duos.

The Lions expect big things from senior Jaron Marks, the school’s record holder in the shot put with a district-leading throw of 49 feet, 1 inch set last week. Senior Anthony Gonzales returns with the school record in the javelin (163-7) set last Saturday,

“We’re excited about our boys crew. We are loaded with juniors and seniors who have spent a lot of time in our program,” McDougall said. “Our sprints and jumps are our strength, but the throwers are probably our deepest event group.”

Top boys to watch

Auburn returns several standouts who shone at state last season.

Back are defending district champion Omar Young, who took third in the state discus final and has thrown a personal-best 176, and senior jumper D’Angelo Washington, who cleared 6-3, ninth best in the 4A high jump finals last season. Washington already has cleared 6-4 this season. A district long jump champion as a sophomore, Washington has stretched 22-7 in that event and also excels in the triple jump (42-3 personal best).

At Auburn Riverside, Marcus Sutrick continues to set the pace as one of the state’s best distance runners.

Sutrick, a three-time state cross country qualifier who finished eighth in the 4A finals last fall, is capable of winning at any distance on the oval – 800 (personal-best 2:01:09 set last Friday), 1,600 (4:22.81) or the 3,200 (9:27.93). He was 13th in the state 1,600 finals a year ago.

Noah Elwell, a senior, has gone 1:57.60 in the 800 and contends at longer distances.

Top girls to watch

Auburn Riverside sophomore Jasmin Muneton stands out in the 800 and 1,600 and boosts the relays

Junior Alaya Hill, who finished ninth in the 4A state high jump finals last year, is an Auburn transfer. She has personal-best 5-3 in high jump and 33-10½ in the triple jump.

For Auburn Mountainview, two state qualifiers from last season return in senior Clara Ramsdell, the school record holder in the 800, and junior hurdler Addyson Jones.

Juniors Rufina Everett (throws, sprints) and Maggie Ramey (pole vault, high jumper, sprints) are among the area’s best.

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