Submitted by Mike Martin
After a stellar performance during the tri-district meet Saturday, May 18, the Friday Harbor Wolverines track team is on their way to state, coach Shannon Plummer said.
Athletes that placed, according to Plummer, include Jaclyn Domenech, Brianna Hess, Katie Place, Alex Holman, Joanna Evans, for the 4-by-100 girls relay; Brianna Hess, 200-meter dash girls; Jaclyn Domenech, 400-meter dash, girls; and Ryan Schaefer in the discus.
Hess captured gold in the girls 4-by-100 relay and 200-meter dash 2B Bi-District Championships in improbable fashion.
“On a good morning I’m not much of a morning person,” Hess said.
But on the morning of the biggest track event of her life, she woke up with an upset stomach. In just her sixth 200-meter race — ever — she found herself facing her biggest opponent: her stomach.
“The hour-long ferry ride followed by a 45-minute long bus ride to Coupeville didn’t help either,” she remembered.
By the time the school bus turned into the parking lot of the Oak Harbor Safeway on Whidbey Island, she thought her body was telling her not to run when it rejected her breakfast of apple sauce and water.
That she was even on a bus headed for the for district championships in Coupeville and a shot at punching her ticket to the WIAA 2B State Championships was equal parts improbable and remarkable.
Just one year ago, according to Brianna, she was living an unremarkable existence in San Diego. She was visiting her father and step-mother when they moved to San Juan Island from Issaquah in June of 2018. She spent many summers visiting the island on boat trips, but from the moment the ferry pulled into the dock in Friday Harbor last June Brianna knew that she’d found her new home.
“She said to me, ‘This feels like home and I don’t ever want to leave,’” remembered her step-mother Melanie.
And that was just upon seeing her new home on the picturesque seaport hamlet of Friday Harbor. Once she became ensconced in the FHHS student body life she could feel her entire outlook on life-changing. She says that the school environment has a completely different vibe than that of her old school.
The change of scenery lit a fire inside of her. She didn’t just find a new home her new home helped her find herself.
“Back in San Diego, I was just a number in a school of 3,000 kids,” she said. “I didn’t feel that I was a part of anything there. At FHHS I feel completely accepted, open and welcomed.”
And it’s not just the students, she said, “There is a spirit in this school. It feels like a real community.”
She says that it starts with the teachers who are very much into helping the students. That energy, she says, is transferred to the students who are very much into supporting each other.
She was not active, athletically, in San Diego. In fact, her exercise regime consisted of a 3-mile walk to a friend’s house every now and then. However, in Friday Harbor she was encouraged to try out for a sport by several people so she settled on track in the winter of 2018-19.
Plummer said he doesn’t instruct kids what events to participate in but instead encourages them to find the events that they want to do.
“I have found that kids compete harder in something that they want to do,” he said. “I let them choose their events and then I help them make their events their mission.”
Brianna chose the 100 and 200 meters as well as the 4-by-100 meters relay. She finished in seventh place in her very first 200-meter race but her times continually improved as the season progressed.
Then came Saturday’s bus ride. After seeing the newcomer’s condition on the bus Plummer made the difficult decision to scratch Hess from her events. That was followed up by a text from Brianna to her dad letting him know she would not be running which, in turn, triggered a conversation with her step-mom.
“I guess I was a little hard on her,” Melanie said. It was a message of tough love, but it was clear. “I told her that she had to run or she would regret it forever… That it might be hard, and hard sucks sometimes, but you just have to do it.”
Brianna decided to run when she realized how much her 4-by–meter relay teammates were counting on her speed to help them with their team goal of a trip to the state finals.
The state tournament begins at noon, Thursday, May 23, at Cheney High School.