Up on the podium is where the Camas High School track and field athletes wanted to go, and they got there together.
Sixteen Papermakers earned state medals Thursday, Friday and Saturday, at Mt. Tahoma High School in Tacoma. The Camas girls rose to second place against 48 other schools in the state. They also set a national record, two state records and five school records.
“I’m really proud of all the girls,” said junior distance runner Alissa Pudlitzke. “I’ve seen all of us working hard every day in practice, rain or shine, to get here. It’s been a great season.”
The state championship experience got off to an excellent start for Alexa Efraimson. She won the 1,600-meter race for the second year in a row and the broke the national record with a time of 4 minutes, 33.29 seconds. Christine Babcock had the best 1,600 time (4:33.82) in the country since 2008. It now belongs to Efraimson.
“I wanted to get a [4:34], but this was even better,” Efraimson said. “It really helped having a big crowd cheering me on. I felt strong.”
Efraimson left the leading pack in the dust after the first lap and just kept accelerating.
“With 600 meters to go, I really turned it on,” she said. “I wanted to push hard on that third lap, focus on my kick and go all out on that last lap.”
Efraimson gained her second 800 state championship Saturday. She also dropped her state meet record time from a year ago down to 2:04.01.
Central Kitsap’s Rose Christen pushed Efraimson to the finish line in the 800, unlike anybody did in the 1,600.
“Competition brings out the best in me,” Efraimson said. “I love Rose. She’s such an amazing competitor, so I thought we were really able to push each other well.”
Nikki Corbett chucked the discus 137 feet, 11 inches to break the 1992 school record set by Marianne Gerde. Corbett was in the lead at the state meet until Arlington’s Lyndsay Leatherman clinched the championship on her last throw of 142 feet.
“It’s disappointing to lose at the end, but getting that school record is something I’m always going to remember,” Corbett said. “It feels good to be able to do this now [as a junior]. Once I get the technique down and I’m able to apply the strength, I can throw in the 140’s, which would be great.”
Jordan Davis finished fourth in the 300 hurdles and improved her school record time to 43.89 seconds. The junior also earned eighth place in the 100 hurdles (15.45).
“I did everything I possibly could to get over those hurdles and I’m happy with what I got,” Davis said. “I’ve dreamed of this for a long time. Hopefully, I can come back and go for the championship next time.”
Caleigh Lofstead clinched third place on the pole vault with a leap of 11 feet, 9 inches, which matched her personal best and school record.
“It’s nice to put everything together that I had been working on all season,” Lofstead said. “It’s a good feeling knowing I can do my best at the biggest meet of the year.”
Savanna Joyce, Davis, Meghan Finley and Efraimson finished in fourth place in the 1,600 relay with a season best time of 3:58.90.
“It’s just amazing to be here in the first place, and to get fourth was awesome,” said Finley, a freshman. “I think we all just tried our best, and that’s the best we can do.”
This was a fitting finish for Joyce, the only senior on the relay.
“It’s not really about the races, but the team,” she said. “I’m just so in love with the team and the relationships that we’ve built. That’s what made this year so memorable.”
Pudlitzke placed sixth in the 3,200 (10:57.69) and 11th in the 1,600 (5:01.96). The Camas junior contended for the lead through the first five laps of the 3,200.
“We all ran really fast. I just decided to risk it, go for it and see what happens,” Pudlitzke said. “Every race, you’re learning. I’m really thankful to have this experience.”
The Camas boys track team shared some milestone moments. Ryan Gunther grabbed second place in the 300 hurdles with a personal best time of 38.68 seconds.
“I wasn’t in the back like I thought I would be. I can take this all the way to the line,” Gunther said. “Just to turn that final corner and think ‘wow, I never thought I would be here.’ All the work I put in finally paid off.”
Josh Ryan, Hunter Brittian, Gunther and Cole Zarcone earned fifth place in the 400 relay (43.06).
“This really is a dream come true,” Zarcone said. “Our expectations were never this high, but we kept believing and we made it. The bond just got bigger every day.”
Ryan and Brittian capped off their high school careers on the podium. Right where the Papermakers always wanted to be.
“We all whined about those hard workouts, but it definitely pays off,” Ryan said.
“It was an unexpected adventure,” Brittian added. “I never thought I would get this far.”