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Take 2

A different spin on sports by The Seattle Times staff and readers.

June 4, 2014 at 11:00 AM

Prep track: A father, a daughter, a nerve-wracking finish at state

Marysville-Pilchuck's Brianne King (wearing pink) competes in the Wesco 3A Championships last month.  Photo by Aleta Mueller

Marysville-Pilchuck’s Brianne King (wearing pink) competes in the Wesco 3A Championships last month.
Photo by Aleta Mueller

BY JEFF KING / SEATTLE TIMES STAFF

Bad things happen in relay races: false starts, lane violations, dropped batons. One misstep can disqualify a team and ruin a season. You’re only as good as your next handoff.

That’s why I was a nervous wreck at the state high-school track and field championships last weekend in Tacoma. My daughter Brianne, a Marysville-Pilchuck senior, reached the Class 3A state finals in the 1,600-meter relay. Our track drama had several layers. Last year Brianne fractured her ankle in an auto accident a week before state, ending her season. Two weeks earlier her 1,600 relay had clocked the fastest time in state.

Brianne went to state as a spectator. M-P’s 1,600 relay failed to reach finals. Welcome to the relay roller coaster.

Our daughter faced months of physical and emotional healing. But I knew my kid would bounce back. I saw her toughness in the 2013 district meet, hobbling on a broken ankle. Doctors had misdiagnosed the injury and cleared her to run. She limped through the 400 meters and finished last. Barely able to walk, she was pulled from the 1,600 relay, which qualified for state with a back-up runner.

After her disappointing 400, Brianne sought out the fourth-place finisher, a girl from a rival school. This senior had missed qualifying for state by fractions of a second. Brianne put her arm around her and walked with her on the infield. Watching from the stands I thought, “That’s my girl.”

Brianne King, right, poses with mom Alisa King after running in the 800-meter relay prelims at the 3A state track championships in Tacoma. Photo by Jeff King

Brianne King, right, poses with mom Alisa King after running in the 800-meter relay prelims at the 3A state track championships in Tacoma.
Photo by Jeff King

Weeks later, her foot pain still raged. We returned to the clinic for an MRI, which revealed a hairline fracture. Brianne tackled her rehabilitation with the same tenacity she showed during track season. Healing became a full-time job. By December, she was doing light running. By March, she was pain-free.

Brianne peaked the last three weeks of the 2014 season. She qualified for state in the 400 and two relays. Her times were dropping. The 1,600 relay was poised to win a state championship.

Then our phone rang Friday night.

It’s Brianne calling from the team hotel in Tacoma. Her foot hurts, but not the one injured in the auto accident. She doesn’t know if she can run in the 1,600 relay final. I can’t believe it. Not again. I feel like throwing up.

The next morning she sends my wife a text: Don’t forget my prom dress (M-P’s prom is scheduled that night in Seattle). No mention of running.

We arrive at Mount Tahoma Stadium in the afternoon. Brianne is warming up. Good sign. She gets in her crouch position in Lane 5, ready to go. Brianne’s start is flawless and she flies around the first turn. The rest of the race is a blur. M-P finishes fourth, shaving two seconds off its best time. We can finally exhale.

Members of the Marysville-Pilchuck 1,600 relay - from left: Charlee Pilon, Amanda Klep, Brianne King and Mackenzie Nolte - celebrate a fourth-place finish in the Class 3A state final in Tacoma. The girls then rushed back to their hotel to get ready for prom that night in Seattle. Photo by Jeff King

Members of the Marysville-Pilchuck 1,600 relay – from left: Charlee Pilon, Amanda Klep, Brianne King and Mackenzie Nolte – celebrate a fourth-place finish in the Class 3A state final in Tacoma. The girls then rushed back to their hotel to get ready for prom that night in Seattle.
Photo by Jeff King

Brianne and her teammates receive medals and pose for photos on the award podium. Then they sprint for the exit. Their prom dates are waiting.

My girl had a great finish.

Jeff King is sports page designer at The Seattle Times, where he has worked for 19 years. He lives with his family in Marysville.

Want to be a reader contributor to The Seattle Times’ Take 2 blog? Email your original, previously unpublished work or proposal to Sports Editor Don Shelton at dshelton@seattletimes.com or sports@seattletimes.com. Not all submissions can be published. Opinions expressed are those of authors, and The Times reserves the right to edit and publish any submissions online and/or in print.

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