Prep boys track and field: Pe Ell hurdle crew continues strong lineage


PE ELL – When the first heat of the 110-meter hurdles begin, there will be a glance by Carter Phelps to each side.

On his left, his partner in crime over the last three years, Calan McCarty. To Phelps’ right, Eli Mason will get into the blocks in his first-ever state track and field meet.

“It kind of brings the stress down,” Phelps said. “It is kind of another race.”

Hurdling has been a lifeline for the Pe Ell High School boys track and field team. Its head coach — Karen Brooks — is a hurdle specialist as is one of her assistants. One of the first events Brooks will have new runners try is the hurdles.

“It was actually way more fun than I thought it would be,” Mason said.

Which makes the Class 1B state meet held at Zaepfel Stadium on the campus of Eisenhower High School in Yakima a special sight for the Trojans.

Phelps and McCarty are returning state medalists and Mason is a state qualifier in his first year out for track as the trifecta placed inside the top-eight in both the 110 and 300-meter hurdles at the crossover district meet to reach Yakima.

“That lineage is passing down and it is pretty cool to be represented,” Phelps said.

The trio will kick off the three-day meet on Thursday with the 300 hurdle prelims, then run the 110s and the 1,600-meter relay prelims on Friday. Finals are on Saturday.

Phelps, McCarty and Mason will team with Jakob Hayes to attempt to get a medal in the 1,600 relay. Phelps will also be in the long jump.

“We have a good chance of placing (in the) top-five,” McCarty said. “My goal is also the school record, which is a big stretch, but I think we can do it.”

Phelps has yet to lose a hurdle race this season, despite a hamstring injury that flared up during warmups at the Chehalis Activators Classic in April. He returned a couple weeks later at a league meet in Onalaska, then dropped a lifetime best 15.34 seconds at the District 4B meet in Naselle.

The senior is the favorite for a hurdle state championship sweep after finishing runner-up in both a season ago.

“I’ve been looking at times and at the beginning of the year, I was like ‘I’m sure some people will get real close,’” Phelps said. “Obviously I’m not totally carefree, but I’m not super stressed out. My big stresser is trying to get the 110 school record. I’m within .15 to that.”

McCarty medaled in the 110s last spring, but not the 300s. He’s in line to potentially double up as he’s got the third-best time from districts in the 300 and fourth-fastest in the 110.

Brooks has noticed the junior has been more of a sponge when it comes to listening.

“He is a lot more accepting and trusting the little things you don’t think about, are really going to help your time,” she said. “We’ve said it enough and he’s starting to believe that now.”

Mason tried hurdles and instantly gravitated towards it. Even though he admitted his form was bad early on, what Brooks and Phelps noticed was his speed.

Improved form has helped the sophomore be on the cusp of his first career state medals.

“Being with them has helped me push more,” Mason said. “Calan made it his sophomore year, so I have to too. They said don’t hit the hurdles because they’re a lot heavier.”

“When he was running, I noticed his center of balance was really good for a hurdler,” Brooks added. “He eight-stepped to the first hurdle just like (a) natural. His initial excitement and no fear was really nice to see right off the bat.”

There was a time when Phelps was a sophomore it was just him and McCarty doing hurdles. Mason and Pe Ell’s other hurdler Blaine Howard, another sophomore, have created a cozy four-person crew.

And more are on the way.

“I think it is pretty cool how tiny of a school we are and produce state hurdlers,” McCarty said. “Almost winning track meets because of how many points the hurdlers put up.”

It will be a difficult viewing of the meet for Brooks, having to pay attention in all three lanes in one heat of the 110s plus multiple lanes in one heat in the 300s.

Still, it is a small price to pay for the pride she said she’ll be filled with once the gun goes off on Thursday afternoon.

“It is what we planned for from day one and it is finally here,” Brooks said. “The nerves will really take effect before the race, but when they’re up on the podium, it is going to be just a super sweet moment.”