Without question, Bella Foos has athletic talent.

In soccer, this Tumwater High School senior was second-team, all-state. In track, she qualified for state in four events last year, going in the 200 and 400 meters along with the two relays. But in addition to her quickness and speed, she’s got desire and determination. That drive is the key to her success.

“She’s a hard worker,” Tumwater coach Tracy Johnson said. “No question. She works her tail off.”

Last year, Foos was the new kid on the block, transferring to Tumwater from Issaquah. She made a quick transition.

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Bella Foos is back for her senior year, determined to make it back to state as a Tumwater High School track star. Photo credit: Gail Wood.

“We’re blessed to have her transfer here,” Johnson said. “She’s turned into a team leader right off the bat. She as hard, or harder, worker than anybody in practice.”

Sometimes, the athlete blessed with natural talent relies on talent only. They don’t work hard to polish that talent. Not Foos. She did a lot of off season training to get stronger physically and she works hard at every practice in the season.

“She did some weight lifting and cross training so I know she’s going to have high expectations for this year, too,” Johnson said. “And improve even more on what she did last year. That’s her nature.”

Foos is hoping her last hurrah in high school track will be her best ever. She’s intends to improve on her personal bests – 26.4 seconds in the 200 and 58.6 in the 400. She placed fourth in 2A state in both events. To make sure she’s ready, Foos trained through the winter months, running five to six days a week.

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Tumwater High School track coach Tracy Johnson talks with some of his team at a recent practice. Photo credit: Gail Wood.

“I’m really excited from the gains we got from that,” Foos said. “Hopefully, it will kick start the season. I was definitely happy with what happened my junior year. But I’m in just a better place starting off.”

She’s ahead of where she started last year. She hopes maybe even ahead of where she ended up.

“That would be really exciting,” Foos said. “The first meet will tell. Hopefully, I get some PRs.”

Foos is no stranger to track. With her parents’ prod, she started turning out for track in sixth grade. When her final high school season is done, she won’t be finished with track. She’ll run next year at Western Washington University on a track scholarship. Her hard work has paid off.

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Some Tumwater sprinters work on their starts at a recent practice. Photo credit: Gail Wood.

“My parents made me do it,” Foos said with a smile about how she got started in track. “I actually started as a distance runner back in the day. Then I slowly realized I was more fast than a distance runner.”

Playing on a hunch, Jefferson recently asked Foos to run the 800. Just to try it. At a recent practice, Foos ran it in 2:18, an exceptionally fast time for a beginner. She admits she was reluctant to try the longer sprint version of a 400.

“I’m not super excited,” Foos said with a chuckle. “But I’m open to new things. I’ll give it a try and see how it goes.”

Foos is a silent leader. She leads by example. As a state placer, her teammates are aware of what she does in practice.

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Bella Najaro (left), Evan Groat (center) and Bella Foos (right) are all hoping to return to the state meet. Photo credit: Gail Wood.

“She’s very soft spoken. She’s very quiet,” Johnson said. “She leads by example. She’s a great kid. She’s from a really, really nice family.”

With 109 kids turning out for track, Tumwater’s got the numbers and the talent. Among a handful of kids back from making it to state last year are Bella Najarro and Evan Groat. Najarro is a unique mix of jumper and thrower. In addition to doing the long and triple jumps, Najarro also throws the shot put and the discus.

In the triple jump, she’s gone nearly 30 feet. In the discus, she’s thrown 118 feet, about nine feet short of her school record. She’s hoping to break that record this year. Her favorite event?

“Discus, not because of the event, but because of the relationship I’ve been able to build with my coach,” Najarro said. “He’s been with me since my freshman year.”

Coach Jordan Stray is always the encourager, the you-can-do-it voice at practice and meets.

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Tumwater’s Evan Groat sets a fast pace while running laps at a recent practice. Photo credit: Gail Wood.

Besides track, Najarro put her knack for jumping to good use by turning out for volleyball, playing on the state championship team. When she’s not slamming a volleyball to the floor or tossing a discus, Najarro likes making music.

“I spend a lot of time in music,” she said. “I play a little piano, but mainly it’s singing.”

Since Groat first started turning out for track, his niche has been distance events. His PR in the 1,600 is 4:25 and in the 3,200 it’s 10:23. To make sure his senior year is his best year, Groat ran every other day over the winter, putting in the miles to get ready for track.

“I just love the competition,” Groat said when asked what he likes about track. “In the Pacific Northwest there’s just so much good competition. All the competitors this year in the league and region are close to my level. I love competing with them because they’re all nice guys. We all get together and shake hands after each race. It’s always a good race.”

When Groat runs his last race for the T-Birds this spring, it won’t be his last race. He’s going to run next year at Central Washington University. As a senior who has gone to state, Groat knows he’s more than a runner. He’s also a leader.

“I see myself as a leader,” Groat said. “More just lead by example. That’s what I pride myself in. I lead by setting a good example and not trying to goof off all the time.”

Just setting an even pace on the practice runs, putting in the miles. It’s a winning formula for Groat and his teammates.

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