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Evergreen’s Grace Twiss looking to clear some hurdles at state

Senior could become first female state champ for Plainsmen since before Title IX

By , Columbian staff writer
Published:
2 Photos
Evergreen High School senior hurdler Grace Twiss takes a break at her school?s track Monday afternoon, May 23, 2022.
Evergreen High School senior hurdler Grace Twiss takes a break at her school?s track Monday afternoon, May 23, 2022. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Three simple words hold strong for Grace Twiss when she steps into the starting blocks: run your race.

That rings true for both hurdle races the Evergreen High School senior shines in — 100-meter high hurdles and her speciality, the 300-meter low hurdles. It also rings true as words of encouragement while teaching and coaching her fellow teammates as the Plainsmen’s de facto hurdles coach.

“It’s my go-to (advice),” said the 18-year-old, bound for Central Washington University next year. “When you say it, you kind of put that idea into your own head, too, and it sticks with you.”

Running her race tends to bring out the best in the teenager, too. Twiss’ personal-best time of 45.11 seconds in the 300 hurdles at last week’s 3A regional meet is the top seed time for this week’s track and field state championships and is No. 2 among Class 3A hurdlers this spring. She enters the 4A/3A/2A state meet, which starts Thursday at Tacoma’s Mount Tahoma High School, as a state title contender hoping to make history, too.

Evergreen’s last state champion in track and field came in 2008 when Brad Wall won the 4A 400 meters. But there’s been fewer females atop the podium.

In 2007, Evergreen’s girls 400 relay captured the 4A title anchored by 100-meter state runner-up Candace Missouri. But last week, Twiss learned Evergreen has produced just one individual female state champion, and that came before the WIAA stepped into host sanctioned state events.

In 1969 — three years before the passing of Title IX — girls in Washington got their first opportunity for state competition. Volunteer organizers launched an all-girls statewide invitational where 98 athletes from 32 schools participated in 14 events at Goldendale High School. There, Aretha Garrett of Evergreen won the shot put to represent the school’s first female track and field champion. Those 1969 results are recognized by the WIAA, but as an unofficial championship event.

Garrett’s trailblazing accomplishment is on Twiss’ mind as she aims to be Evergreen’s first female champion since Garrett 53 years ago.

“That’s really inspiring to me,” she said. “I feel such an honor because I really feel like we women, we don’t often receive the representation that men do all the time. And I feel it’s time for change, and I’d love to take one step toward that.”

Twiss enjoys the technical aspect of hurdling and sees similarities to her love of physics and engineering. She wants to work for NASA one day, and is an advocate for women and girls in science, technology engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields. She also advocates for Asian American athletes, and on the track, Twiss advocates for herself as a 5-foot-2 hurdler.

Her stature has its advantages and disadvantages while hurdling, she said. The advantage? A lower center of gravity. Facing taller competitors can be an intimidating disadvantage, but it’s only fueled her in an advantage twist.

“I’d say it’s made me stronger,” Twiss said. “I’ve had to work harder.”

Evergreen head coach Ken Frisch sees that hard work daily with Twiss. What makes the teenager stand out is her attention to detail, the coach said, and had led to consecutive personal-best times in both races the past two weeks of postseason meets.

“She’s specific about what she wants to do,” Frisch said, “has a plan, and follows that plan, and then executes that plan.

“I think it’s her strong mindset as well, because she’s determined.”

But another advantage Twiss hopes to have on her side this weekend is experience. The WIAA spring state championships are the first since the pandemic swallowed up the 2020 season, and Twiss will be one of the small percentage of athletes at Mount Tahoma who competed in the 2019 championship meet. She ran in both hurdle races at state as a freshman.

Having that state experience helped set Twiss up to where she is today, she said. From an unsure ninth grader to a senior confident in her abilities and potential.

And she’s done so by following her own advice on the track: run your race.

“I’m definitely going into (state) with a different mindset,” she said. “I feel like I’m not who I was my freshman year; I’ve completely changed. I’m a whole new person going into state this year and I’m excited to see what I can do.”

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