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The City Journals

Juniors, seniors expected to lead Huskies at region, state

May 08, 2018 10:39AM ● By Julie Slama

At the Utah Valley Invitational on March 31, Hillcrest senior Tara Sharp set a new school record in the pole vault at 11’3”, a vault that qualified her for state. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

When Hillcrest High senior Madison Hooper was a sophomore, she said a soccer coach told her, “I was too skinny to amount to anything great.”

That fueled the fire to want to prove her wrong.

“I joined track in order to boost my self-esteem and also become a stronger woman,” she said. “After joining, I found that what I loved the most about the sport was being with the people that supported me and helped me reach my greatness. I didn’t want to do it for my coach anymore, I did it for me and I loved it.”

That has led to Hooper setting the school’s indoor 400-meter record this past season in addition to holding the sophomore and junior girls’ 400-meter outdoor records. Already this season, she qualified for state in the 400-meter at the Deseret Peak Invitational.

“My (goal is) to win the 400-meter dash at region and also run a time close to or faster than the 58.9 I ran last year,” she said prior to her state qualification run. “I really like the 400-meter dash. Many people don't like the race because of the physical pain that it causes as well as the mental exhaustion it brings. However, I love it for the reason that it makes me feel strong after running it and that I can run a race most people are afraid of.”

Senior Taylee Allen also qualified for state at the Deseret Peak Invitational in the shot put, as did senior Grace Cobabe in the 100-meter hurdles. 

Hillcrest High competes in the Region 2 meet, set for May 9-10 at Kearns High. The state meet, which takes top athletes at region or those who have met state-qualifying times, is May 17-20 at Brigham Young University. 

Hooper’s desire to run a hard race is a far cry from her sophomore year when she first tried track and admits that she didn’t have a lot of friends.

“I think the area that I improved in the most in is my confidence. Over the years I have participated in track, I have gained 20 pounds in muscle and also have met countless new people that I love to hang out and talk to. I am really grateful for the people around me and the way they have built up my self-worth,” she said about her 115 track teammates.

Those teammates include senior Tara Sharp, who, at the Utah Valley Invitational March 31, broke the school’s pole-vaulting record with a vault of 11’ 3”, beating last year’s 10’4” school record set by Gracie Otto, who was the 4A state pole vault champion. She also qualified in the event for state.

Sharp, who finished last year third at state with a vault two feet shorter than her school record, “will probably break it again by the end of the season,” Hillcrest head track coach Scott Stucki said, adding that there was potential this season to break other school records — the girls’ 800 meter, the boys’ medley relay and the boys’ 4x800 meter relay.

Seniors Allen and Olivia Palepoi as well as sophomore Arleigh Sorenson are athletes Stucki said are expected to make an impact in field events.

“I have been pleasantly surprised by our girl throwers. We have several girls out for the first time that have been doing very well. We always have a few kids out for the first time that jump up and perform well,” said Stucki, who has coached track for 23 seasons, including the past 11 as head coach at Hillcrest, as well as coached cross country the past 18 seasons. 

Hooper also said she can count on her teammates on the relays: the 4x100, which already has run the state-qualifying time, as well as the 4x400 and medley relays with senior Madeline Martin, who last year at state individually placed third in 100-meter hurdles and fifth in 300-meter hurdles and already has run a state-qualifying 300 hurdle time; Cobabe, who individually placed sixth in 100-meter hurdles and competed in finals of the long jump at state last year; sophomore Morgan Miller, who individually placed sixth in 100 meters at state last season; senior Olivia Finlinson, a veteran sprinter and pole vaulter, who already has qualified in pole vault for state this year; and junior Amelia Slama-Catron, a middle-distance runner who has run on Hillcrest’s relays at state the previous two seasons when the school competed in 4A. 

This is Hillcrest’s first season in 6A.

“The state for 6A is more competitive and there are a lot of great athletes we will be faced to go head-to-head with,” Hooper said. 

Beforehand, the Huskies are scheduled to compete at the Desert Peak Invitational, Davis Invitational and Herriman Twilight meets in addition to their regional competition. Hillcrest will host the regional JV meet on their home track on May 14.

Stucki had goals for both boys and girls to win region this year, lead by “a solid group of seniors that could win eight to 10 of the 14 individual events and all three relays. Depending on (athletes’) health, we should be able to score in every event. Our girls may have a chance to be top five at state. I’m expecting top 10 and hoping for more.”

Hooper and her relay-mate, Cobabe, recently committed to run track at Westminster College on academic and athletic scholarships. Stucki said that four others — Sharp, Martin, Justin Canals and Alex Cardona — may sign as well.

Hooper appreciates the coaching staff — Stucki, Anthony Alford, Jeni Hancey, Matt Lewis and Jared Croft — who “have all put in so much effort into the track program. They produce great athletes and are always pushing us to be better. Also, they care about their athletes outside of the track, which shows that they aren't just in the program for the recognition or for superficial reasons.”

On the boys’ side, the sprinting team is lead by Cardona, who at state last season finished ninth in the 100 meters and was part of the third-place 4x100 relay team, and freshman Parker Boggess in the throwing events. Seniors Joao Silva, Zach Stout, and Laran Lewis should place well in the longer sprints, Stucki said.

For the boys’ distance runners, Canals, who competed in the 3200 meters at state, and junior Zac Hastings, who competed in the 800 meters last year at state, are leading this year’s squad.

“We have a handful of freshman every year that show promise for the future. Our distance will be a major strength,” Stucki said. “(At region,) we should win all three distance races with depth behind. We should score in all field events with maybe a couple wins and place in every event. We should win the medley relay for the boys and make it to state in the other two.”

At state, he hopes the boys’ team will place in the top 10 at state.

Hastings, who individually hopes to win the 800 meters and mile at region, said his favorite race is the 1600 meters.

“It's just the right distance to push yourself to the limit without running eight laps,” he said, saying his brother and parents, who all enjoy the sport, influenced him to run. “The 800 meters is the hardest race in my opinion just because of its intensity." 

Hastings is in his second track season and has run cross country for three years.

“I decided to do track mainly because I love the feeling when I PR (personal record) or overcome the odds,” adding that his long-term goal is to drop 20 seconds in his mile to break the school record of 4:13 that was set in the 1970s. “I have my work cut out for me; I'm hoping I can do it.” 

Hastings said it's the people that he runs with that makes him love track.

“They know how to work hard and still have a good time. For the most part we do a really good job of supporting each other as we try to do our best,” he said.

Hooper agrees: “The team overall is very cohesive…for the most part, I feel like everyone gets along well; it's like a family. It feels like everyone is rooting for each other and pushing each other to do their best.”