State 4A meet record-holder in 100 hurdles is looking to double in the 300 this year. Meet opens Thursday in Tacoma.
Brandi Hughes seems to always have a plan.
Not too long after she began dancing – at the age of 6 – Hughes projected her life’s path. Then she took the steps necessary to make it happen, enrolling at the Los Angeles County High School of the Arts.
“I was a dancer,” Hughes said. “I did all different kinds of dance. I definitely thought I was going to grow up and become a professional dancer.”
Girls state track
Thursday, 3:30-7 p.m.; Friday, 9 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. @ Mount Tahoma High School, Tacoma
But the thing with pre-teens’ plans is that they change. Such was the case for Hughes, who on Thursday will begin competition in her final high-school track meet – the 4A state championships at Mount Tahoma High in south Tacoma.
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Hughes, a senior at Skyline, will attempt to defend the 100-meter hurdles title she won a year ago in a meet-record 14.10 seconds. Hughes erased the previous record of 14.15 set in 1994 by Walla Walla’s Seville Broussard.
Hughes finished third in the 300 low hurdles, and she feels she’s ready to move up those two steps on the podium this weekend.
“I’m a very competitive person,” Hughes said. “If someone gives me the opportunity to do something, I will do everything I can do to be the best at it. But I actually was really surprised I won state. It really was my first year hurdling. So I was shocked I could get that fast that quickly.”
When she arrived at Skyline as a freshman, having moved north from California with her family after her dad got a job in the Seattle area, Hughes already was thinking about joining track despite never having done it.
In California, Hughes’ life had revolved around dance. But when she moved to Washington and began looking into studios where she could continue that path, none had the right feel.
Friends in California had been into track and field. Hughes heard how much those friends enjoyed the sport, and thought she’d like to get involved.
“Part of the reason I got into track, I was used to being active every day of the week (in dance),” said Hughes, who will run the hurdles at Tulane University in New Orleans next year. “Then I actually fell in love with it.”
She turned out as a freshman at Skyline, but pulled her left hip flexor, aggravated it when she hit a hurdle , and finally the soft bone gave way.
4A/3A/2A State Track & Field Championships
Mount Tahoma High School, Tacoma
Thursday, May 26 — 3:30 p.m.-7 p.m.; Friday, May 27 — 9:00 a.m.-6:30 p.m.; Saturday, May 28 — 9:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m.
“My season was done,” she said. “I broke my hip.”
“The next year, she placed on three relays at state,” Skyline coach Dawn Geiser said. “Then she really got the fever. She’s very dedicated, very determined. She has all those intangibles you can’t coach. There are a lot of good athletes out there. She’s a one-in-a-million type of athlete. The great athletes have those intangibles.”
Five Story lines
Girls’ Track & Field Championships
1. Mountlake Terrace senior Chinne Okoronkwo set the 3A meet record the past two years in the triple jump, and she again leads the state at 42 feet, 7¾ inches this spring. That would crush her current state meet record of 41-10¼. She’s also the defending champ in the long jump and pole vault.
2. The 4x200 relay matchup between Issaquah (1:40.41) and Tahoma of Maple Valley (1:40.61) will be worth watching.
3. Sophie Cantine and Jordan Oakes were shoulder to shoulder during most of the 800-meter race at the Class 3A Sea-King District 2 championships a week ago, and Oakes’ teammate at Holy Names, Erin Ripple, closed on the leaders at the finish in what should be one of the most competitive individual races of the weekend on the girls side. Cantine, from Lakeside, went under 2:10 to win the district crown.
4. Shorecrest’s Wurrie Njadoe has a rare chance to win four state titles — or at least place in the top three in each event — in Class 2A. She’s ranked at or near the top in all classifications in the high jump, long jump, 100 and 200.
5. Freshman sensation Lauryn Ford of Kentridge heads into the 4A meet with the fastest time in the state in the 200- meter race. Her 23.88-second best would top the state overall record (Donna Dennis of Clover Park, 24.13, 1982).
Work ethic. Attitude. And the ability to translate experience into new avenues.
“In dance, I have a lot of control over my body,” Hughes said. “So taking over hurdles was easier for me than maybe for someone else.”
After her injury as a freshman, it took Hughes a year before she went back to the hurdles.
Then, between her sophomore and junior years, she joined the Sea-Town Express club team.
Coach Jack Craig taught her the right way to do hurdles. She asked questions. She trained. She worked with Geiser and the other Skyline coaches.
And she’s become a state record-holder, one that still might find her way to a dance floor once again.
“I kind of wish once in a while that I still danced,” Hughes said. “But track definitely also has taken a special place in my heart.”