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Track and Field: BHS’ Kennedy, Flora reach state championships
For Kyle Kennedy and Jarell Flora, the recipe is simple: speed.
And after impressive, state-qualifying performances at last weekend’s Class 3A West Central/Southwest District track and field championships at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma, that’s the ingredient the Bremerton duo will bank on at today’s state meet.
Kennedy, a sophomore who will make his second state appearance in as many years, placed second at districts in the javelin with a 183-foot 11-inch throw, a personal record (PR). Only Mikey Lauritzen of Camas posted a better mark (187-05).
Not only was the 183-11 a PR for Kennedy, but it also puts him in position to top his ninth-place performance at last year’s state meet when he posted a 175-07.
“At first, I didn’t have enough speed on the runway,” Kennedy said during practice Tuesday, describing his 183-11 at districts. “My coach kept yelling at me, “Speed, speed, speed!’ So I sped up and finally threw a 183.”
It’s going to take another PR — and even more speed — for Kennedy to stay in the mix at state. But both he and his throw coach, Kaelea Makaiwi, believe it can happen.
With Malaki Seanoa of Everett currently holding the state’s top 3A mark (197-08), Kennedy said he wants to throw at least 187 or even 190.
“He’s been working hard to make sure he peaks at the right time,” Makaiwi said. “It’s a credit to him — how hard he works when he does his workouts from start to finish.”
With a PR under his belt, Kennedy said he is gaining more and more confidence each day. Nerves, he said, factored into his psyche both at state last year and at sub-districts this year.
“It feels good, actually, to know I’m getting better and better and better,” he said. “It seems like if I just calm down and do what I’m supposed to do the entire time, then I do a lot better.”
Makaiwi said Kennedy, who also plays football and wrestles, has a bright future regardless of what happens at state. And with two more years of eligibility, he figures to improve upon his already impressive marks.
“He’s got a lot of good things working for him,” Makaiwi said. “He has a very quick arm, he does really well with his block coming over the top.”
Toady’s state competition, like last weekend’s districts, is at Mount Tahoma, seemingly giving Kennedy an idea of what to expect on the field. Makaiwi said headwinds and tailwinds will determine exactly how he should approach his throws.
“We’re working on his speed and making sure his angle of release is right where it needs to be, the optimal angle,” she said, referring to how wind may alter a thrower’s approach. “He’s learning that as he goes.”
Asked how Kennedy stacks up against the entire field, Makaiwi said it’s hard to know because there are athletes from the eastern part of the state who neither she nor Kennedy have seen.
“I think it just depends because, on any given day, you never know who’s going to throw what,” Makaiwi said. “Right now we’re just working on consistency and moving up.”
Flora, meanwhile, pulled arguably the biggest upset of the district meet with a first-place finish in the 400-meter race, one of two events in which he competed.
Not only did the junior, who had never participated in track prior to this season, win the event, but he raced past the competition with relative ease in 49.81 seconds. Second-place finisher Chris Pokorny of Bonney Lake finished in 50.47, more than one-half-a-second off the pace.
“Once I got to the final 100 (meters), it was pretty quiet behind me,” Flora said when asked if there was a point in the race when he felt he could win.
The victory was particularly surprising because Flora posted the sixth-best time in prelims — the top eight times advanced to the finals — with a 50.52. He had never broke the 50-second mark prior to his run in the finals.
“I was much more relaxed than in preliminaries,” he said.
Equipped with a little more confidence, Flora said he hopes to break 49 seconds and finish in the Top 3 at state. Michael Berry of Rainier Beach currently holds the state’s fastest time (48.22).
“There were guys out there who were better than me and I beat them,” Flora said. “So it gives me a lot more confidence than before.”
Flora also raced the 200, finishing ninth in 22.77.
The boys javelin event begins at 4 p.m. today. Heat one of the boys 400 prelims is at 5:35 p.m. today, while Heat two is at 5:40 p.m. The top 3 finishers from each heat, plus the two next-best times, advance to the finals, which are at 2:50 p.m. tomorrow.