CHENEY - Goodness gracious...what a finish to his prep career for Bickleton High School senior Nic Venema!
The track and field sports standout nailed down his third consecutive 1B State title in the boys pole vault.
Coupled with a victory in the 110-meter high hurdles, Venema powered the Pirates to a fourth-place finish in the boys team standings at last Friday and Saturday's WIAA State meet, staged on the campus of Eastern Washington University in Cheney.
For Bickleton, it's only the second time the Pirates have walked away from the 1B State meet with a team trophy in hand.
"To my knowledge, at least in all the time I've been here, this is just our second team trophy," said long-time Coach Darrell Lang, noting the first time the Pirates managed a "Top 4" finish and were presented the team trophy that accompanies that feat, occurred three years ago, when Bickleton's boys placed third.
Venema, undoubtedly, was chiefly responsible for the Bickleton boys squad's noteworthy accomplishments this past weekend. But his sister, junior Jamie Venema, wasn't about to let her brother bask in all the glory.
The Lady Pirate secured a 1B State title of her own, and fittingly, it came in the pole vault. The younger of the siblings also turned in the third-best mark at State in the girls triple jump. Along with a pair of seventh-place finishes in the 200m dash and long jump, Venema proved to be the catalyst for Bickleton's sixth-place finish in the girls team standings at State, just two spots shy of earning a team trophy.
In winning top honors in the girls pole vault, Venema went six inches higher than the next closest competitor, although she was a full foot below her season-best vault of 9-0, set at the Regional meet the week before in Wapato. The winning vault at State was measured at 8 feet-even. The runner-up, freshman Xandria Korn of Eastside Preparatory, could not get above the 7-6 mark.
Venema equaled her season-best triple jump effort from a week earlier at Regionals, recording the very same mark of 32-8 to place third at State, six inches better than the fourth-place performance of Almire/Coulee Hartline freshman Katie Emerson. Edging Venema for runner-up honors in the triple jump at State was Columbia-Hunters senior Lindsay Loe, who was three and a half inches further with a leap of 32-11.5. The clear winner at State was Rachel Siltman, a junior from Mt. Rainier Lutheran, who turned in a triple jump of 34-4.
Bickleton also had sophomore Sydnie O'Banion competing in the triple jump. She finished just half an inch behind her season best leap, going 24-5.5 at State for eighth-place honors.
In placing seventh in both the long jump and 200-meter sprint events at State, the junior Venema settled for efforts of 14-6.5 and 28.48 seconds. Her best marks this season in those two events were 15-7.75 and 28.24, respectively. The 1B State champions in the long jump and 200m proved to be junior Elizabeth Larrew of Columbia-Hunters (16-8.5) and junior Kassie Guglielmino of Northport (26.26).
Bickleton's girls had another standout at State in freshman Lindsay Brown. Her best finish at Cheney, a third-place showing, came in the 300-meter hurdles. Brown also earned team points for the Lady Pirates in the 100-meter hurdles, placing fifth.
In the longer of the two hurdles races Brown clocked the third-best time of 51.01 seconds, equalizing her season best clocking she recorded at an invite in Toppenish in mid-April. The two girls who bested her at State in the 300m hurdles were Mt. Rainier Lutheran's Siltman (48.22) and Wellpinit's Courtney Pierce (50.29).
In the 100m hurdles Brown was fifth in 18.15 seconds, approximately three-tenths of a second slower than her season best clocking. The 1B State winner in the shorter of the two hurdles events, again, was Siltman (16.64).
Bickleton's girls also had three relay squads competing at State. The best any of the foursomes managed was a sixth-place showing, that coming in the 4x200. The quartet of Haley Goodnight, Annie Lindsley, O'Banion and Yee Zhu ran to a clocking of 2:08.1, a season best. The winning time, posted by the squad from Odessa-Harrington, was 1:52.1.
All told, Bickleton's girls tallied 36 team points at State, good for sixth-place honors from the 32-school field. The four teams that trophied were Mt. Rainier Lutheran (90), Seton Catholic (76), Columbia-Hunters (64) and Trout Lake/Glenwood (55).
Lang said with both the freshman Brown and the junior Venema coming back next spring, along with several other returning athletes, the Bickleton girls squad is "...ready to have another successful season.
"We're very happy with everything that's happened this spring and are looking forward to next year," he added.
Garnering just its second 1B State track and field team trophy in school history, the Pirates piled up 55 points in Cheney last weekend. The only three schools topping that point total were Valley Christian (85), Crescent (83) and Pomeroy (61).
The senior Venema proved to be the workhorse for the Pirates, but Bickleton received a hefty lift from junior Peter Clinton. The two Pirates teamed to dominate the pole vault, finishing one-two, respectively.
Venema recorded a personal best vault of 12-9 in winning the State title, which ties the Bickleton school record. Clinton was just three inches back at 12-6, which matches his personal best in the pole vault. Pomeroy senior Jon Atchley finished a distant third with a vault of 12-0. Another Bickleton vaulter, junior Justin Roberts, went 10-0 at State to place seventh.
In winning the State pole vault titles his sophomore and junior years, Venema's winning marks were 11-0 and 11-6. Lang said with Clinton already vaulting 12-6, he anticipates the senior-to-be will set a new school record next spring.
Besides his second-place finish in the pole vault, the junior Clinton secured team points for Bickleton at State in the 400m run. He clocked the fifth fastest time, a season best for him at 55.21 seconds. Curlew senior Brandon Eberly toured the oval with a winning time of 52.85 seconds.
Clinton also competed in the 800m run at State, but a nagging groin injury resulted in him fading at the end of the race and out of the money.
Clinton was strong enough, however, to team with Venema, Taylor Brown and Roberts for a fifth-place showing in the 4x100 relay. The foursome posted a time of 48.66 seconds, which was almost exactly three seconds back of the winning squad from Pomeroy.
The iron man Venema, besides winning the pole vault title, also claimed top honors in the 110m high hurdles and was third in the 300-meter hurdles. In the shorter of the two races, Venema sped to the title in 16.14 seconds, a personal best. The runner-up, Valley Christian senior Craver Small, clocked in at 16.58. Bickleton's Brown placed sixth in the shorter of the two hurdles events (18.25).
Lang said in winning the 110m hurdles, Venema ran a calculated and disciplined race. "He began pulling away from them after clearing the third hurdle," Lang said.
In the 300m hurdles Venema again established a personal record, crossing the finish line in 43.79 seconds, good for third-place honors. The two hurdlers who bested him were Matthew Waldrip and Joel Williams, both of Crescent, who clocked times of 42.28 and 42.67, respectively. Bickleton's Brown was seventh in the race (46.17).
Lang said this season's two-time State champion plans to follow in the footsteps of his older brother, Andrew Venema, and intends on enrolling at Central Washington University. Like his brother, he hopes to make the CWU men's track and field team as a walk-on, most likely specializing in the decathalon.
The other Bickleton athletes who earned team points for the Pirates at State last weekend included Brown, eighth in the shot put (35-5); Mitchell Powers, sixth in the high jump (5-8) and eighth in the triple jump (37-3.25); and Joey Cardenas, eighth in the 3200m (12:46.74).
"We're going to have a good group of boys returning next season," said Lang, "All with high hopes of improving on one of our top seasons ever.
"I think all the boys are jacked up for next year."