Prep boys track and field: Niemi stronger, faster to secure district hurdle title


TUMWATER – As the Class 2A Evergreen Conference sub-district meet took place last spring, W.F. West’s Hayden Niemi knew there were 110-meter hurdlers better than him.

The headliner was former state medalist Jayden Thomas from Tumwater, but Niemi placed fifth that day as a freshman. He didn’t qualify for districts in that race.

“They were all stronger and faster than me,” Niemi said.
What a difference one year makes.

Niemi blasted his previous lifetime best out of the water and triumphed in the 110 hurdles in a new personal record of 16.15 seconds for his first career 2A District 4 individual title on Friday night at Tumwater District Stadium.

“The nervousness got me going and I showed up when it was time to show up,” Niemi said. “It gave me a lot of confidence.”

Paired with a fourth-place finish and another PR in the 300 hurdles, Niemi will make his state meet debut next week at Mount Tahoma High School in Tacoma.

A season after only Lucas Hoff was the lone Bearcat to head to state, they will be in seven events this time around.

“It is great to have more than Lucas,” W.F. West head coach Katie Jansen Guiliani said.

Niemi’s calling card has been the 300 hurdles, the race he went to districts as a freshman. Still, he felt his times in the 110s would get faster.

His off-season dictated that.

“Coming out of middle school going to the 110s and up six inches, you have to have a lot of strength for it,” Niemi said. “A lot of plyometrics.”

The past three meets have all been sub-17 seconds. Even in a stacked 2A field that features 17 guys that have all broken 16 seconds at some point this season, Niemi knows his best competition is around the corner.

That same mantra applies to the 300 hurdles. Teammate Maddox Simpson was the runner-up in the 110s in 16.24, also a new PR.

“His hurdle form has been improving every day,” Jansen Guiliani said. “You haven’t seen the last of him. He’s been strong all season.”

Lucas Hoff finished top-three in high jump, javelin and pole vault for the Bearcats. He had three chances at setting a new PR in the pole vault, but couldn’t get over the bar.

Caleb Busse hit the automatic qualifying mark in the discus to extend his season while W.F. West’s 400 relay took fourth to head to state.

Tumwater was second behind Columbia River in the team race 132-117. The Thunderbirds qualified for 11 events at state, a mark Coach Jordan Stray believes sets themselves up well next week.

“With the performances we’re seeing today, everyone is excited,” Stray said. “Each meet, go out and compete. Move on to the next one.”

David Malroy reset his PR in the long jump with a winning leap of 21-06. It was a stark one-week improvement from jumping just 20 feet even at sub-districts.

He eclipsed 21 feet two meets in a row prior to last week.

“I was behind the board or over the board on my jumps,” Malroy said. “I really wanted, in practice, to hit the board every time. I did that this meet.”

Also heading to state in the open 200 and the 400 relay, Malroy’s self-confidence took a hit recently. Now, it has returned.

“I feel like I’m on the right side of the track season curve,” he said.

Malijah Tucker claimed the shot put with a toss of 55-00.50. It marks just the second time this season he’s gotten over 55 feet.

To the Washington State football commit, it was “critical.”

“I felt a lot faster,” Tucker added. “My form still wasn’t the greatest; I just had to get something out to make state.”

The junior has harped on consistency in practice and improved form. Stray, specialized in coaching the throws, has seen those areas improve dramatically.

“He is a super strong kid and is trying to use that strength (with) the right technique instead of muscling it out there,” Stray said.

Aaron Paul won the high jump and Tumwater’s 1,600 relay grabbed first place. It notched eight other top-three finishes, paced by Josh Schlecht (400), Reid Crumley (300 hurdles) and the 400 relay taking second.

Rochester’s Gunnar Morgan qualified for state in the 1,600 and 3,200-meter runs while Black Hills’ Ezra Harris placed fourth in the javelin to head to state. Centralia’s Sam Volavola was its highest finisher, 10th in the discus.