State Track: Harkey wins 400 meter dash, T-Birds nab eight medals

Nathan Hawkins, Reporter

In track and field, athletes work all season to improve in their respective events, but the ultimate goal is clear: get to the state tournament.

This year 15 Bellevue West athletes performed well enough at districts to get to the state tournament, which took place on May 19 and 20 at Burke. Among those athletes were seniors Caelon Harkey, Tyler Ciurej and Scarlett Hill.

Harkey, who qualified in the 200 meter dash, 400 meter dash, 4×100 meter relay, and 4×400 meter relay, said he started to really focus on track when he quit football in seventh grade. He runs a lot of races, but he said he feels that he is best at the 400 meter dash.

“The 400 is a lot about how you can push yourself and if you know that you can really leave it all out at the end of the race then you can pace yourself during the race,” Harkey said. “A lot of it is mental.”

Harkey is driven by a winning mentality, but he wasn’t too confident coming into the season.

At the beginning of the year I knew I could perform well but my coach told me that I would go to state and I would win it, so he had more confidence in me than I had in myself,” Harkey said. “He deserves a lot of credit for that.”

His coach’s confidence was not misjudged, as Harkey came away with the first place medal in the 400 meter dash with a time of 49.5 seconds, and third in the 200 meter dash with a time of 21.8 seconds. He also helped the 4×100 relay team place fifth.

Ciurej, who qualified for shot put, has been throwing since middle school. He identified that the key to shot put isn’t always power, but is even more about form.

“Everybody thinks shot put is about brute strength,” Ciurej said, “but you need a lot of form to go with your strength and that’s what a lot of people don’t excel at is the form.”

When Ciurej started throwing in middle school, he threw about 40 feet. Now he throws easily between 50 and 51 feet.

Ciurej said his competitive drive led to that steep improvement.

“Nothing is good enough” Ciurej said. “If I go there and place, that isn’t good enough.”

Ciurej went on to place seventh in shot put, throwing for 50’ 3 ¼”.  

Girls’ sprinter Scarlett Hill qualified in the 100 meter dash, 200 meter dash, and the 4×100 meter relay. She too has been competing in track for a long time, starting to run for Bellevue Breeze before seventh grade. She came into the season with a hardworking but fun mindset.

“I came in this season expecting to just have fun and focus on myself,” Hill said in an email interview. “With it being my senior year I really just wanted to enjoy my last season for high school. So I worked hard and had fun; the success I had was a reflection of that this season.”

She ended up finishing fourth in the 100 meter dash with a time of 12.3 seconds, fifth in the 200 meter dash with a time of 25.5 seconds, and she helped the 4×100 team to a fifth place medal as well.

Additional state medalists include Grace Bryant, Marisa Zvezdich, and Sierra Hiatt who ran with Hill in the 4×100 relay. Bryant also placed fifth in the triple jump. On the boys’ side, James Radziunas, Jeyvon Drucker, and Micah Davis rounded out the 4×100 relay with Harkey.

Although Hill came away with some hardware for her trophy collection, she said she gained much more through her time as part of the Bellevue West track team.

“From all of my seasons I’ve learned that support and positivity is the best thing to have,” Hill said. “I always try to support my teammates and be as positive as possible throughout every workout and meet. I wouldn’t be where I am today without all of my coaches and teammates throughout the last four years.”