When it comes to standout senior sprinter Danielle Hunter, Timberline High School track and field coach Todd Taylor wisely adopted a practice early in the season.
“She came into the season with some pretty lofty goals,” Taylor said. “The first time out was just jaw dropping, and she’s improved every race. We don’t even bother putting it up on the (record) board anymore because we know she’ll just break it again.”
Taylor’s assessment proved to be spot on with Hunter closing out the season by yet again setting new Timberline records in both the 100 and 200 at the 3A South Sound Conference championships at South Sound Stadium on April 30.
Hunter covered the 100 in 12.03 seconds and was equally impressive in the 200, winning the race in a time of 24.46. Both times were not only new benchmarks for the Timberline program, but were also the fastest times in the state this year, regardless of classifications.
Hunter, who will attend the University of Washington on an academic scholarship, first broke the school records in the 100 and 200, which were both set in 2017 by Makenna Hansen, during the opening meet of the season and proceeded to set new marks over her next three consecutive meets, capped by her dual triumphs at the SSC championships.
Hunter’s journey into the Blazers’ record book was actually a lengthy one, starting as a ninth grader in South Korea.
Her father, a member of the US Army, encouraged her from an early age to turn out for track. It wasn’t until Hunter entered high school, however, that she took his advice.
“My dad, since I was little, always told me I was fast and I needed to run track,” Hunter said. “I had never tried out for sports before, but he kept pushing me. In ninth grade I tried it, and he was right.”
During her first meet, Hunter qualified for the Far East Championships and was immediately hooked. She moved to Washington as a sophomore, attending Clover Park High School before moving to Lacey as a junior. The cancelation of last year’s track and field season due to the pandemic made her unfamiliar to Taylor and his staff at the start of this year, but they soon learned they had one of the state’s best.
“Last year we really didn’t know much about her,” Taylor said. “This season, the first day of practice in the rain, she came up to me and told me she was looking to get a 12.1 in the 100 and a 24-something in the 200. These are big marks and I didn’t want her to get her hopes up too high.”
It didn’t take Hunter long to produce those numbers.
“She’s just a great kid,” Taylor said. “She’s an outstanding student. She works hard. She’s one of the last to leave practice. She puts in the work and she hasn’t even reached her full potential yet.”
With the season over, Hunter plans to walk-on at the University of Washington where she will major in English with hopes of being a writer.
“I’m just going to continue to put in the work,” said Hunter. “My aim is to hopefully be one of the best in the country.”
Capital won on the overall girls South Sound Conference championship with 214.33 total points. The Cougars received a pair of individual titles from junior Aubrey Harrington, who won the 800 and 1600 while also helping Capital’s 4×400 relay team triumph.
The Cougars captured 10 out of the 18 events at the meet with freshman Addison Harrington winning the 400 (1:03.83) and sophomores Amanda Moll and Hana Moll claiming top honors in the long jump (17-03.00) and pole vault (13-00.00), respectively.
Capital also received first-place finishes from sophomore Olivia Henry (javelin) and freshmen Emma Bothern (3200) and Lilly Geuin (300 hurdles) while finishing first in the 4×100 and 4×400 relies.
Yelm was second as a team with 181.33 points with four individual champions in Bethany Venuto (100 hurdles), Marissa Roberts (discus), Abigail Carlson (high jump) and Isabelle Wright-Cloran (triple jump). The Tornados also claimed the 4×200 with the team of Ayla Danner-Bunn, Breanna Hurajt, Hailey Briggs, and Isabella Zurfluh.
Timberline was third in the girls standings with 101 points. In addition to Hunter’s dual titles, the Blazers also took first in the shot put with junior Abigail Pedro winning the event with a throw of 37-01.00.
Yelm edged Timberline to capture the overall boys team title. The Tornados finished with 200 points, getting two individual championships from senior Bryce Cerkowniak (1600 and 3200), sophomore Kyler Ronquillo (110 hurdles and pole vault) and freshman Brayden Platt, who won both the javelin and the shot with his throw of 52-06.00 in the shot the tops among 3A athletes in the state this year.
The Tornados won nine out of the 17 events as they also received first-place finishes from Ryan Lange (800), Dylan Jemtegaard (discus) and in the 4×400.
Timberline, which finished with 193.5 points, received dual championships from senior Nhino Denis in the long jump and triple jump. The Blazers also won the 4×100 rely and picked up individuals wins from Xavier Thomas in the high jump and Caleb Morris in the 300 hurdles.
River Ridge (97), Capital (93.5) and North Thurston (45) completed the top five in the boys team standings with Hawks’ junior Dontae Robinson winning the 100 and 200 and Rams’ junior John Sehmel finishing first in the 400.