The first day of the state track-and-field meet at BYU can feel like a whirlwind, with athletes from all five classifications in constant motion as they compete in their various preliminary and final events.
But when you break it down, that whirlwind is made up of thousands of individuals chasing their dreams and seeking the rewards for their hard work.
Sometimes it pays dividends.
Consider Salem Hills seniors Talin Mortensen and Hunter Morganson.
Mortensen entered the state competition as one of the favorites in the discus and as the defending 4A champion.
“I was nervous because it was the state meet but last year I won state so I had some expectations,” Mortensen said. “I kind of psyched myself at the start but then I realized I was seeded No. 1 and that I could do it.”
Morganson, on the other hand, came in 12th in 2016 and was seeded fourth this year.
“Hunter threw well today,” Mortensen said. “He threw a 10-foot personal record and came out of nowhere. He has a great reverse and really gets his legs into it. It’s good that we push each other.”
But the two Skyhawks had a dream of standing together atop the podium together — and they made it a reality.
Mortensen won another state title with a throw of 165 feet, 3.5 inches while Morganson moved up with 147-4.5.
“My good throws are always when I’m patient and I was patient with this one, so it went,” Mortensen said. “I can tell right when it leaves my hand. If I get a good rip on it, it goes far. I was pretty consistent and it was good day.”
He said being 1-2 with Morganson was the goals since the two were kids and it was exciting to accomplish it.
The two talented Salem Hills throwers and many of the athletes have improved because they had someone to push them.
It isn’t often as immediately obvious as it was for Westlake junior Adara Christensen. She set the state record in the pole vault at the Region 4 meet, getting over the bar at 11-feet, 7-inches.
That record was shattered in the finals by both Christensen and by Bingham freshman Hannah Stetler as the bar kept moving higher and higher.
“It was a lot of fun being able to get to almost 12 feet,” Christensen said. “It was like a quarter of an inch short of it. It was super-exciting.”
Stetler actually cleared the bar first on her third attempt, giving Christensen one final chance to match that height — which she did successfully, giving both athletes a share of the state record.
“It was a lot of fun,” Christensen said. “In pole vault, everyone is working together and you want them to get their personal records. It was for to see her go, so then it was, dang, I’ve got to go catch up.”
Christensen has only been pole vaulting since January, when she just decided she wanted to try it. She will have more opportunities to set the bar even higher in the future.
One of the most decorated athletes after the first day of competition at state was from tiny Tintic High School in Eureka, as senior Bailey Wall won two state titles, one in the 1,600 meters and one in the javelin.
“I was so nervous forever, so it was good to be able to come and do that,” Wall said. “I ran my personal record by 10 seconds in the mile today, so I was lucky to have a good race.”
While the talented Miner won the 1,600 by five seconds, her other title was right down to the end.
“There were three of us who were all throwing around the same distance,” Wall said. “I was very lucky to have a good throw. Sometimes you can’t perform to your best. I was in third going into my last throw, so I felt nervous. Then I threw it and it was 121 feet, so that was enough to take state.”
She said she wasn’t sure how good of a throw it would turn out to be but wanted to give it everything she had.
“I’m a senior, so this was my last throw ever,” Wall said. “I just wanted to relax and have fun with it, enjoy the moment. I just let it go and I wasn’t sure. I looked at it and thought it might be alright. When the guy said it was 37 meters, I cried. I was like, that’s it.”
While some of the stories end up as successes, other athletes have to face challenges.
On the surface, Provo senior Kate Hunter looked to have a good day as she started off winning the 4A 1,600 final, then had solid showings in her other events.
But the Bulldog dream of trying to win a team title took a blow when sophomore Meghan Hunter got injured and hasn’t been able to compete at the highest level.
“It happens,” Kate Hunter said. “We were planning on trying to win state but now I don’t think that’s going to happen. It’s about trying to have fun and do as well as I can.”
It appears that Box Elder is in good position to win the 4A girls state championship, while Springville, Orem and Olympus appear to be vying for the top spot in the 4A boys competition.
In the 5A ranks, the American Fork boys team will look to its talented distance runners to put it in position to compete for the top spot. Cavemen seniors Casey Clinger, Patrick Parker and McKay Johns got first, second and fourth respectively to give American Fork the lead after the first day of action.
Other local state title winners from Day 1 included Springville’s Haden Penrod (4A boys 1,600m), Orem’s Paige Young (4A girls long jump) and American Fork’s Justin Harmon (5A boys pole vault).
The final day of action will begin Saturday at 8 a.m. at the BYU track and field complex.