TACOMA – All too often, the distance races at track meets get overlooked.
Such is not the case when Alexa Efraimson hits the track. The fastest high-school distance runner in the country resides in Camas, Wash.
But this weekend the junior is in Tacoma, competing in the 4A state meet at Mount Tahoma High that got under way on Thursday.
The boys and girls 1,600-meter races in each classification were the only track finals on the first day. Efraimson already owned the best 1,600 time ever in the state for a girl at 4 minutes 37.85 seconds.
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Another simple state record would have been ho-hum. So Efraimson went out and set the new national high-school record, lowering the 4A state meet and overall mark to 4:33.29.
That eclipsed the national record of 4:33.82, set in 2008 by Christine Babcock of Irvine Woodbridge (Calif.).
“Today I wanted to hit 4:34,” Efraimson said. “I had that big crowd here just cheering me on. I felt really strong.”
When she hit the bell lap (the fourth and final one), Efraimson peeked at the running clock. That’s when she knew.
“I saw that I just needed to go a 67 (seconds) to break 4:35,” Efraimson said. “I knew I could do it.”
She had to do it by herself. By that final lap, her closest competitor was nearly 150 meters behind her.
“Honestly, this whole season I’ve been working on running by myself,” Efraimson said. “On pushing myself up front. Being here, with the people cheering me on, it helps me want to do more for them.”
Efraimson wasn’t the only top distance competitor in the spotlight Thursday, though.
Seattle Prep senior Joe Hardy returned to state after missing the meet as a junior due to a violation of team rules. Hardy, who will run at the University of Wisconsin next fall, didn’t disappoint in the 3A boys 1,600.
Hardy settled into fifth place behind a trio of Nathan Hale runners and rival Tanner Anderson from North Central in Spokane over the first 800 meters. He and Anderson, who came from behind to nip Hardy for the cross-country title last fall, took over the pace in Lap 3.
Then, as the final 400 meters came, Hardy pulled away to win in 4:07.73.
“That actually was right with the strategy,” Hardy said of the paced beginning. “Then I was trying to go for the full, fast last 400.”
Two years ago, Hardy failed to win this event. He won the 3,200 meters as a sophomore, however, and holds the state’s fastest time in that event this spring at 8:55.25.
Hardy will try to win that race for the second time in his career Saturday afternoon.
“I’m just going to compete in the 3,200,” Hardy said. “These guys are all studs. You can’t take anything for granted.”
Except, maybe, for another record from Efraimson.
• Kamiakin senior Megan Beauchene’s victory in the 3A 1,600 was the first of her career. She spent the last few years finishing second to the likes of former Glacier Peak star Amy-Eloise Neale.
• Lake Washington’s Katia Matora won the 2A 1,600 in 5:00.18.
• Arlington senior Lyndsay Leatherman threw 142-0 on her final attempt to win the 4A discus crown.
• Holy Names senior Olivia Vincent, who fell hard after being interfered with in her 100 hurdles heat, came back to win a rare re-running of an event in 15.2 seconds and qualified for Friday’s final.
• Tahoma’s Danielle Agoh won the 4A triple jump with a leap of 37-10¼.