PASCO - A triple jump newbie six weeks ago, Sunnyside High School’s Elijah Pena won the Regional title in that event last Saturday in Pasco.
It’s one of two victories the senior posted at Regionals, and one of four events he’ll compete in this coming Friday and Saturday at the State 3A track meet in Tacoma.
Pena’s winning leap was 44-5, well ahead of the 43 feet posted by runner-up Jordan Reyes of Hanford. Sunnyside Coach Darren Mezger said Pena’s effort in the triple jump set the SHS all-time best senior mark and was just five inches off the school record of 44-10 set by Nathaniel Jarvis when he was a junior. “He dragged his foot or he would have had a school record,” Mezger said of Pena’s triple jump mark.
The fact that Pena even competed in the triple jump at all was only due to a Grizzly 4x100 team that was slow in coming together this season.
“We were hoping a 4x100 relay would come together earlier, but when it didn’t we wanted to give Elijah a fourth event to compete in,” said Mezger. Among the options for the do-everything Pena were the pole vault and javelin, but Grizzly coaches felt Pena’s best chance to advance was in the triple jump.
Pena met those expectations and then some at Regionals. He also claimed top honors Saturday in the 110m hurdles with a clocking of 15.59, edging a time of 15.74 posted by runner-up Jim Fowler of Kamiakin.
Pena punched his ticket to State in the 300m hurdles with a second-place showing of 40.64, bested only by Fowler’s time of 40.17.
In addition, Pena qualified for a fourth event at State when he claimed the region’s third and final berth in the long jump with a leap of 21-5.5. The senior beat out Mt. Spokane’s Tod Kahler for the final State spot in the long jump by nearly seven inches.
While Pena is the only Grizzly headed to State, Sunnyside did receive some point-scoring efforts by other athletes. In boys competition, the 4x100 relay team of Bernaldo Madrigal, Julian Naranjo, Mark Mortensen and Jesus Magallan finished in sixth place with a time of 44.8.
In girls competition at Regionals, the Lady Grizzlies tallied points in five events. Senior Brittney Broersma was seventh in the 100m hurdles in 17.10 and eighth in the 300m hurdles with a clocking of 48.32.
Also, Sunnyside freshman Jessica Linde was eighth in both the 100 and 200 meters with respective times of 13.51 and 27.54.
Rounding out the Lady Grizzly scoring effort was the fifth-place 4x200 relay team of Linde, Cecilia Guillen, Jeniya Guillen and Broersma who posted a time of 1:48.88.
While Broersma closed out her career for SHS track, Mezger said the senior ran up against some of the best hurdlers in the state. He also expressed hope the Sunnyside Christian High School student will compete in college.
As for Linde, Mezger says she broke the freshman record in the 200m and has a bright future ahead for the Lady Grizzlies.
“She just needs to shave half a second off her time to go to State,” he said. “She’s already talking about getting ready for next year.”
But there’s still one more meet for this year, as Pena preps for four events at State.
“I’ve never coached an athlete like him,” Mezger says of Pena, who will compete in an international track meet in Australia this summer. “He has a desire to be great at whatever he does. He just wants to beat everybody.”