Fans watching the opening day of the 2003 WIAA Track and Field Championships last Thursday witnessed the uncrowning of two Class B defending champions from Klickitat County.
Trout Lake senior Spencer Paxson fell short of a second 3200-meter victory by 25 meters and Glenwood sophomore came up 6 inches shy of another win in the pole vault.
For Paxson, however, the victory came in finishing the race.
After being diagnosed with mononucleosis in mid-April, his season appeared over. But Paxson recovered in time to win the 3200 at both the Greater Columbia B League and Central Washington regional meets in May.
The state 3200 final at Eastern Washington University in Cheney was only his fourth race of the season.
And though he was game for the chase of pace-setter Mac McGrath of Thorp-Kittitas, he wasn't able to reach down for the kick that propelled him past his rival in the last 110 meters of last year's final.
"He (McGrath) is such a strong runner," Paxson said afterward. "It's because of him that I was able to get such a fast time last year (9:44 versus 9:58 this year.)."
McGrath, a junior, aggressively shot out into the lead on the first lap and covered the first mile in under 5 minutes.
Paxson held back, as he did last year, running third most of the way. He said if he made a strategic error, it was in not moving up to push McGrath in the sixth or seventh of the eight laps around the Woodward Field oval.
"I wanted to, but by the fifth lap I was just holding my own," Paxson said.
At the start of the bell lap, McGrath began to separate himself from the field of 16 runners. Entering the final turn, he held a 30-meter lead over Valley Christian's Troy Fridley and Paxson.
Paxson, who caught and passed McGrath on the same corner en route to his 2002 victory, reached down and found a burst of speed that carried him past Fridley.
But the kick wasn't enough to catch McGrath, who coasted across the finish line to claim victory in a time of 9:55.80. Paxson followed him less than 3 seconds later.
"I came here today to compete, and I think I did," Paxson said moments after the race. "I would have liked to have gotten first, but, after not knowing if I'd even get to state, I'm happy to be second."
Tomeo, likewise, was gracious in defeat after Wahkiakum's David Faubion dethroned him as state pole vault champion in a competition that lasted 3 hours, 10 minutes.
"It's not the best (finishing second), but it's OK," the Glenwood athlete said. "He (Faubion) was better today."
Tomeo entered the competition at less than 100 percent. He had a sprained left ankle and what he suspected was a stress fracture of his right foot.
If that weren't enough, he suffered a groin injury on his first vault at 10 feet, 6 inches, catching the cross bar on the way down. He sat immobilized for several minutes afterward and passed until the bar reached 12 feet.
He re-entered at that height and pushed Faubion all the way through 13-3.
Tomeo, who had trouble getting his steps down throughout the event, passed again after aborted attempts at 13-6 and 13-9 -- both of which Faubion scaled -- and finally lost out with the bar at 14 feet.
"I wasn't in sync today. But it's only one meet," he said. "I have two more years to try to come back."
Tomeo rebounded from Thursday's defeat by taking third in Friday's long jump competition (20-0.5) after failing to qualify for Saturday's 100-meter final (11.62).
But not all Klickitat County athletes were kept off the top of the medallists podium.
Trout Lake's 4x400 relay team of Peter Schmid, Dale Dick, Mike Hansen and Andy Dick captured a first place in a school-record-setting time of 3:32.91 in Saturday's final.
That finish gave the Mustangs 10 of their 27 points, which were good enough for seventh place in overall team standings.
Andy Dick, who caught and blew by a Pomeroy runner on the anchor leg, told the Yakima Herald-Republic, "I just wanted to pass him as fast as I could. It was the last race of my senior year. I wanted to do it."
Dick's gold-medal winning anchor leg followed a fourth-place showing in the day's 800 final (2:03.20).
Lyle senior Jim Bodolay placed fourth in the discus (138-1)....Glenwood sophomore Mitch Wheelhouse snagged sixth in the shot put (44-11.5) and eighth in the discus (134-3)....Klickitat freshman Travis Cleveland (12th, 38-4) was the youngest triple jumper in his class....Trout Lake sophomore Adam Paxson finished sixth in the 1600 (4:47.78)...Classmate Tony Leslie tied for 10th in the high jump.