YAKIMA – With a chance to repeat as state track and field champion, Alexis Leone hoped to focus on herself and run her own race.
But it didn’t hurt that the Seton Catholic junior had another fast runner on her heels.
Leone was pushed by Port Townsend’s Aliyah Yearian before pulling away on the final lap to win her second straight Class 1A state championship in the 1,600 meters Thursday at Zaepfel Stadium.
Yearian’s challenge added suspense to Leone’s first race in her busy state championship weekend. It also propelled her to a personal-best time.
Leone’s time of 4 minutes, 59.30 seconds surpassed her previous best of 5:02.86 at the Kalama Twilight Invitational on April 21. She also bested last year’s state-winning time of 5:06.00.
For the first three of the four-lap race, Leone and Yearian ran shoulder-to-shoulder. That wasn’t a surprise, as Yearian entered Thursday’s race with a personal-best of 5:02.5.
“If you have someone to run with you, you feel much better,” Leone said. “You’re like, OK it’s a race.”
As the bell signaled the final lap, Leone kicked into a higher gear. She opened a 10-foot gap with 300 meters to go.
By the final 100 meters, Leone’s victory was in hand. Yearian finished three seconds behind in 5:02.33.
“I just focused on myself and did what I can do,” Leone said. “In that moment, that’s what I could do.”
But for Leone, running her own race also involves not finishing second.
“I’d be a little unhappy if I didn’t push myself to get it again,” she said.
Leone’s work is far from finished at the Class 1A-B state meet in Yakima. She’ll try to repeat as champion in the 3,200 meters on Saturday.
Leone is also running in the 800 meters, which she did not compete in at last year’s state meet. She’s also likely to anchor Seton Catholic’s 1,600 relay.
Leone hopes Thursday’s victory is a momentum boost for the state meet’s final two days.
“I hope to add to it,” Leone said. “I’ll try to put that go-get-it mentality on and see how far I can take it.”
In other finals Thursday, Stevenson’s Tucker Wyninger placed second in the pole vault with a personal-best mark of 14 feet, 6 inches. The junior’s previous best mark was 13-6.
Shay Meseck-Schick of Seattle Academy won the event at 14-6, but with fewer attempts. Seton Catholic’s Cayden Lauder placed sixth 12-6.
Nora Hendrickx of La Center placed fifth in the high jump at 5-0.
In 2B finals, Kalama’s Noah White was fifth in the javelin (141-11).