Established as The Skamokawa Eagle in 1891

Naselle scoops up 11 medals at state track

Halle Miller put it into words better than anyone.

"It's been a great season!" she exclaimed.

The eighth grader expressed her excitement as the Naselle track team headed to pack up the district vans for the journey home from the WIAA 1B state meet.

With them were 11 medals.

Three were won by June Miller, who placed second in the high jump, second in the 400 meters in a time of 1:01.18 and third in the 200 in 26.61 seconds.

Derek Suomela concluded his Comet sports career with two medals from four events. He placed third in the 400 in 52.42 and tied for fourth in the high jump, clearing 5-8. His time of 2:09.59 in the 800 wasn't enough to advance to the final and his long jump of 18-2 put him 11th.

His final race, the 400, ended with a group hug with other runners amid grumbling about erratic winds sweeping the stadium.

"I have a lot of mixed feelings," the senior said. "I am kind of glad it's over. I am getting kind of burned out, but very sad I won't be able to do that again.

"It has been the highlight of my high school."

Classmate Jacob Pakenen earned the fourth-place medal in the pole vault, clearing 11 feet, and also competed in discus but did not record a score.

The third senior in the state squad was Desirae Gifford, who placed seventh in pole vault at 6-6. Freshman teammate Shaylee Suomela placed fifth, clearing 7 feet.

Gifford began to compete two years ago. "It was a lot of hard work," she said, crediting her family and coaches for support. "I have wanted this since my junior year when I started track, and being here in my senior year and getting a medal at all is a huge accomplishment."

"So much fun"

Sophomore Mylee Dunagan placed fourth in the high jump, clearing 5 feet, and sixth in the triple jump with a distance of 33-2.75.

"It is so much fun," she said, "and I am so excited to see June succeed and she's only an eighth grader and doing a jump-off! I wanted to get up in the 5s this year and fourth is a pretty good spot."

The other medal winner was freshman Andy Rosas, who placed seventh in the triple jump with a distance of 37-8.5, a personal best (PR) leap. Athletes with the best early jumps advance to a final jump-off.

"It looked like it was going to be pretty tough going to get in as a finalist, but almost everybody didn't beat their PR. They were way under. I beat my PR with my first jump and with that jump it brought me up to finals and placed me in seventh."

His zeal will continue. "It has been my main event since seventh grade."

"How lucky I am..."

Halle Miller's best high jump was 4-6 and she ran a 100-meter hurdles heat, finishing in 18.33, the 10th-best time. "I liked the opportunity to be here, and how lucky I am - and how hard I tried, to be able to compete with high school athletes," she said.

Others competing for Naselle were freshman Reilly Browning, who raised his PR to 8 feet in the pole vault and eighth grader Gus Burkhalter, who had a best triple jump of 36-8, which placed him 11th.

Pakenen, Burkhalter and Rosas teamed with sophomore Jason Gardner for a 4x100m relay, but did not advance to the finals.

Scott Smith is head coach for both the boys and girls squad, assisted by Jack Osadchey and Marie Green. Tyler Kirkman, a 2023 graduate who placed second in discus as a senior, managed the team.

"Every season is so different," said Smith. "I knew we were going to be good, both teams, I had pretty high expectations with some young kids and I had experience with Jake and Derek. I knew those guys were going to be solid, and then the Miller twins - I knew would be competitive because we had seen them as seventh graders."

Medals in pole vault pleased him.

"Both those girls were hard workers and Desirae has grown up so much in the two years she has done track," he said. "It was a big deal when she made it to state and a really big deal she got a medal. Shaylee is like Derek - nothing fazes her! She just calmly runs up there and jumps over the bar."

He commended Derek Suomela's dedication. "He has competed in 16 events and probably taken home something like eight medals," he said.

He also praised Pakenen's effort in discus and pole vault. "He gave it his all," the coach said. "The throws he scratched on were going to be monster throws, if he gets them in. His first two misses in the pole vault were because he was running too fast!"


Mention of the Miller twins caused the coach to smile.

"They are both really good kids, just solid kids in the classroom and they do anything you ask, pretty much, and they are almost 'happy-go-lucky' competitors.

"I expect Halle to get a lot of medals at state here," Smith added. "They both just have so much potential. Halle is still trying to figure out how much potential she has."

In team scoring, Garfield-Palouse girls won with Naselle finishing sixth. For the boys, Valley Christian of Spokane was the runaway winner with Naselle coming in 12th.


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