Zack Schneider won the state championship in the 110-meter high hurdles and combined with Makayla Earl to bring home five medals from the Washington State 1A Track and Field Championships in Cheney last weekend.
Schneider crossed the finish line first in the finals of the 110-meter hurdles, winning his first state championship with a time of 15.12 seconds. Chewelah’s “Hallway Hurdler” beat Jared Neiman from Kalama to the tape by two hundredths of a second.
The win fulfilled a personal dream that took root back in his middle school days when Schneider was told he could never again play a contact sport because of a spinal birth defect.
It was then that the Jenkins High School senior decided to become a state champion hurdler. That vision became reality on Saturday afternoon at the top of the awards stand at Woodward Field when the first place medal was draped around his neck.
“This was so cool and so awesome,” said Coach Pat Kostecka. “This is something Zack has dreamed about all his life and now it’s a dream come true. Not only did he win a state championship, but he broke two school records. And he did it at the state championships. What a way to complete his high school career!
“Zack is in amazing shape, and his timing in his preliminary heat and in the finals was perfect. Coach Jason Tapia has done a great job of helping Zach fulfill his dream.”
Schneider posted the fastest time in preliminary qualifying on Friday. He won his heat in 14.94 seconds to establish a new Chewelah school record in the high hurdles.
He also set a new record in the 300-meter low hurdles on Friday when he won his preliminary heat in 39.49 seconds. Although Schneider placed third in the finals of the low hurdles on Saturday, he again broke his school record by running a time of 39.47 seconds. So, Schneider left the campus of Eastern Washington University with two state medals and two school records.
Earl brought home medals from all three of the throwing events at the state meet. She placed second in the discus, third in the shot put, and eighth in the javelin. Furthermore, two of those throws were personal-best efforts by the Chewelah senior.
On Friday, Earl used her final attempt in the shot put to launch a throw of 38 feet, 9.5 inches, the longest throw of her high school career. That distance was good enough for a third place finish out of the 16 competitors in the event.
“It was do or die for Makayla in the shot put,” explained Coach Kostecka. “It was her final throw, and she needed a long one. She stepped into the ring and threw the best throw of her life.
“The amazing thing about this is that Makayla scratched out of regionals last year. So, she had never thrown in the state meet until this year.
“It is my personal belief that Makayla’s success in the Junior Miss program last summer built up her confidence to the point where she could make her final throw the best throw of her career and earn that state medal. For me, it was one of the most satisfying experiences of my coaching career.
Earl added two more state medals to her collection on Saturday. She placed eighth in the javelin with a throw of 114 feet, six inches. Then, she finished second in the discus with a toss of 116 feet, one inch.
“I did not see Makayla throwing the javelin, because I was watching Zack win a state championship,” said Kostecka. “I do know that her knee had been bothering her, but she worked through the pain and got off a throw good enough to earn a state medal.”
“However, I did get to see her second place throw in the discus. Makayla was a little nervous at first and she was not getting enough height out of her throws. Still, she was in third place going into the finals.
“I told her to remember her great practices and to visualize the discus leaving her hand and getting the right elevation. I knew when the discus popped up off her hand that it was going to be a long throw. It ended up being her best-ever throw, and the second-best throw of the state meet.”
“My greatest experience in coaching has been to watch the human spirit develop, as it has with both Zack and Makayla. Their accomplishments are now life skills that they can take with them. They have the confidence to accomplish anything they want to do. They have both developed into amazing people.”
By Geno Ludwig The Independent Staff
In this photo: Zack Schneider (center) runs 110-meter high hurdles final at the State Track Championships on May 26 in Yakima. Mara Schneider photo