Two years ago, Union High School’s Tanner Sork was a distance runner.
One year ago, he was an injured middle-distance hopeful.
This year, he’s a district champion in the 400 meters and the 800 meters. Sork won both events Wednesday at the Class 4A meet at McKenzie Stadium, validating his decision to change distances and making up for last year’s district meet.
“Up until junior year, I was a miler or two-miler, and I ran cross country all four years,” the Union senior said. “I have an advantage over a lot of (400-meter) runners in that I do a lot of distance training because I still like to run.”
He also has an advantage in that he’s really, really fast.
According to athletic.net, Sork ranks fifth in the state among all classifications in the 400 and sixth in the 800.
Revealing his distance-running background by eschewing starting blocks for the 400, he still won by 1.45 seconds ahead of second-place finisher Te’Kwon Wallace of Evergreen.
“I get kind of jittery on the blocks, coming from a distance background,” he said.
Less than an hour later, he went out and won the 800 by 1.79 seconds over runner-up Roman Kirkov of Union.
Wednesday’s victories send Sork to next week’s regional meet at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma. The top three finishers in each event at the 4A district meet, which concludes today, advance to the regional competition, which will determine berths to the state meet.
For Sork, who hopes to help Union’s 1,600-meter relay team advance today, making it to regionals is a relief.
At last year’s district meet, he injured a hip flexor during the 400 meters. That knocked him out of the 800, in which he had recorded the best qualifying time.
All of that gave Wednesday’s competition particular importance to Sork.
“There were a little bit of nerves,” he said. “This is what I’ve been aiming for all year.”
In other highlights from Wednesday’s 4A meet:
• Easy-striding sophomore E’Lon Mack of Heritage won the boys 100 in a personal-best of 10.97 seconds.
“Everybody tells me that it looks like I’m jogging, but I’m not,” Mack said. “I’m focusing on the last 20 or 30 meters; that’s normally when I get caught. I’m trying to get better and better at that.
“I’m going to try to hit 10.8 for regionals and again at state.”
• Tee Tee Martin made it a sweep for Heritage in the 100, winning the girls race in 12.52 seconds. Tayler Troupé of Union was second in 12.77.
Martin has been struggling all season with an injury to her left quadriceps, which she had heavily bandaged.
“I just want to push through it and try to get better for regionals and state,” she said.
• Joe Thompson of Union won the pole vault with a mark of 15 feet. Jameson Shirley of Skyview cleared 14-3 for second place.
Both are ranked in the top five in the state for all classifications and have cleared at least 15 feet this season.
• Rachel Shirley of Skyview won a tight race in the girls 400, finishing in 59.15. Andrea Olstead of Battle Ground was second in 59.25, with Kaitlynn McKinney of Union third in 59.77.
Olstead also won the triple jump.
• Freshman Alexis Fuller of Union won the girls 800 and 3,200, finishing well ahead of the field in both races.