St Johns and Round Valley Champions.jpg

Athletes from St Johns (red jerseys) and Round Valley pose for a group photo at the state championship.

The Round Valley Lady Elks made a strong showing across the board, helping them grab the Runner-Up title for the recent AIA state track meet. After the first day, the girls were in second place, and the team immediately started trying to figure what events were left, and project how they could finish, to see if they had a chance. It turns out they had a chance — and took advantage of it.

Head Coach Ashley Udall give a lot of credit to the girls on the team, saying they had “incredible attitudes, and there was a really strong bond between them.” This bond allowed the girls to not only work through the practice process but it helped them in “pushing themselves so that they would be able to help the team.”

As an outsider I hoped the Lady Elks would do well, but I did not expect such a strong performance. Apparently I wasn’t alone. Other coaches were heard effectively asking toward the end of the state meet, “When did you guys become this good?” The Elks were not on the radar of teams to beat until it was too late.

The Elks received a big boost in a few areas that proved to turn the tide. For starters Riann Cluff, who moved from Show Low to RV, has been a big lift for the team. She started the scoring early with a second-place finish in the pole vault. Cluff also helped the Elks in several relays and the triple jump.

Mackenzie Merrill, a senior, has mostly battled injuries during high school and this is the first year that she has been able to leave it on the track, and that she did. She took second in high jump and participated in other running events and relays.

The throwers for the Lady Elks stepped up with a first place finish by freshman Sydnee Finch in the shot, and a first place finish by Emma Young in the discus. Even when they were not placing first or second, the throwers grabbed points that proved critical in the final score.

Jessica Madrid was able to take second in both the 1600-meter and 3200 to help the Lady Elks in the distance events. Kandalyn Burk grabbed points in the discus, javelin, and shot put. Jessica Soderberg helped in the pole vault by scoring, as well as running on some relay teams to grab more points.

As the night wore on, it appeared to the Lady Elks that they would need to get a few more points — even just one more point — to hold off a Valley Christian team that was making a fierce push to finish on the podium.

Round Valley’s last event was the 4x400-meter relay. The girls, who qualified as the ninth team, hoped to bump one team off, which would give them an additional point. Despite running a better time the team finished ninth and the girls assumed the higher-finishing Valley Christian would bump them from the runner-up position. Yet the results were tallied St Johns 89, Round Valley 75, Valley Christian 74, and Pusch Ridge 73.

It seems rather remarkable that cross county rivals would show up and take the stage under the heat and the bright lights. Congratulations to the St Johns Lady Redskins, and the Round Valley Lady Elks.

Other team members not previously mentioned include Olivia Biggs, Holly Davis, Christine Reynolds, Maggie Wagner, Addison Whiting, Jaelyn Wright, and Baylie Ziegler.

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