Community Sports

Gig Harbor track setting a fast pace

Posted on May 2nd, 2023 By:

After winning the South Sound Conference’s Male Track Athlete of the Year award in 2022, Ben Stevens of Gig Harbor is once again dominating the league’s sprint events in 2023.

The 6-foot-4 Stevens’ owns the league’s top times this year in the 100 meters (11.01) and 200 (22.23). His top time in the 400 (50.92) is second in the league this year.

“Ben has been one of the most consistent workers I’ve had in the sprints,” said Kevin Eager, in his 20th year as the Tides’ head coach. “He really stepped up in the postseason last year and I haven’t seen anything that indicates that he won’t step up again this season.”

Gig Harbor’s Ryder Truttman flies over the hurdles for the Tides. Photo by Christi Adams

Other sprint contenders

Stevens’ biggest competition for the South Sound Conference title in the 400 may come from teammate Nick Grover. Grover who won the 400-meter title at the Shelton Invitational on April 29 in a personal best time of 50.60. That placed him 10th on Gig Harbor’s all-time list.

“He really did his work this winter getting stronger, so I’m happy to see him get some individual success,” Eager said.

Grover, Stevens and Ayden Fink are all part of Gig Harbor’s 4×100 and 4×400 relays. Josiah O’Neill joins them on the 4×100 and Micah Galeana on the 4×400. Both teams could challenge for state titles this year.

Middle and distance runners

Eager said the biggest story on the boys team has been the emergence of junior Jonathan Miles. Miles turned in a 4:12.66 in the 1,600-meters at an event at the University of Oregon, an all-time top 10 mark in Gig Harbor High history. He won the 800 meters wire-to wire at Shelton in 1:55.46.

Miles has the top South Sound Conference times this year in the 800 meters (1:55.46), 1,500 meters (3:56.97) and the 1,600 meters (4:12.66). Galeana is third in all three events and also provides capable legs on the longer relays.

Gig Harbor’s Preston Fradet, Tyler Campbell and Gavin McKeegan own the league’s second, third and fourth-best times, respectively, in the 3,000 meters. Junior Fradet is just outside the state Class 3A top 10 in the event. Eager thinks all of his athletes’ times will improve with some sunshine to run in.

Field events

In the throwing events, the Tides’ Christian Pugmire unleashed a discus throw of 134 feet, fifth-best in the conference. Reece Jennings is third in the javelin at 162 feet, 8 inches, just outside of the Class 3A top 10.

Eager highlighted senior Brody Grossman, who is in his first year on the team and turned out three weeks into the season. Though he’s still learning the high jump, he’s already cleared 6-foot-1, tops in the SSC and among the better marks in the state.

Sophomore Tyler Harrington has turned in the fourth-best pole vault mark in the SSC at 11 feet, 6 inches.

Tyler Harrington of Gig Harbor pole vaults at the Shelton Invitational. Photo by Christi Adams

Distance runners lead on girls side

On the girls side, Eager gushed about his deep and talented distance crew, which includes many participants from last fall’s cross country team, which finished second at the Class 3A state meet.

The group is led by Class 3A cross country champion Reece Morkert. Sophomore Taylor Sletner and freshman Lejla Carlsson are ranked top 10 in multiple distance events. Senior Kaylee Fergus is just outside the top 10 in the 3,200m. Alex Ferrier, who competes in four sports for Gig Harbor, is third in the SSC in the 1,500.

Baylee Young leads the Tides sprinters and has been a pleasant surprise for Eager. Young is a basketball player who missed last season due to knee surgery.

She spoke with Eager last year about running track, but the coach “sort of shrugged, knowing that track is outdoors, in the rain and is a lot of hard work, without a lot of notoriety.” But “she’s been a model athlete and fit right in with our team.”

Gig Harbor’s Baylee Young sprints down the back stretch for the Tides 4 x 100 relay team. Photo by Christi Adams

Young owns the conference’s fifth-best time in 100 meters at 13.01 and the fourth-fastest time in the 200 meters with a time of 27.02. She is joined by returning state speed burners in Kate Jones and Maura Lenzi. All three “have done a great job leading a group of young sprinters,” Eager said.

Another top 10 ranked athlete for the girls is junior javelin thrower Lydia Ward. Ward starred for the Tides in volleyball this season and won at the Shelton Invitational last weekend. She’s tied for fourth in Class 3A with a throw of 120 feet.

History of contending

Eager guided the Tides to six state team titles and four runner-up finishes during his 20 years at the helm: His boys teams won in 2005, 2007, 2012 and 2018 with second-place finishes in 2006 and 2019; his girls teams won state in 2007 and 2018 with runner-up finishes in 2008 and 2017. He and his experienced staff (including his wife Kristi, who coaches hurdles ) have coached 30 individual state champions for the Tides.

The Gig Harbor boys track team won the 63rd annual Shelton Invitational team title on Saturday, while the girls team finished only 10 points off the pace. More than 30 teams competed in Shelton.

The results left Eager feeling good about his teams.

“Both teams will have a shot to win the SSC next week but it will be very tough,” he said. “Defending girls state champion Capital literally has a couple of world-class athletes (no really!) to go with a solid team and Yelm has overcome some injuries to be the prohibitive favorite to win the state 3A in boys track this year with some of the same guys who helped them win in football. Time will tell.”

Gig Harbor coach Kevin Eager has coached six state title teams. Photo GHHS track