Woodland High honors girls state track and field champs
By Rick S. Alvord
Posted here with permission of The Daily News - Longview, WA
Jun 05, 2004 - 12:23:23 am PDT

WOODLAND -- Teenage girls with thousand-watt smiles toted flower bouquets and posed for photographs Friday in the Woodland High School gymnasium.

And it wasn't even prom night.

No, this gathering was specially arranged for the nine girls who returned home with the biggest piece of hardware from last weekend's Class 2A state track and field championships at Eastern Washington University in Cheney.

Woodland, say hello to your 2004 state champs.

"This year, it definitely all fell together for us," said senior Bree Cochran, clutching both the first-place track trophy and the title trophy from the state volleyball championship Woodland won in November. "It's an incredible feeling. We couldn't ask for anything more. It was just our year."

In addition to playing on the two state championship teams, Cochran also was a member of the Beavers' basketball squad that placed eighth, making Woodland one of the most successful girls sports programs in the state at any level.

As was the case in November for volleyball, a school-wide assembly was held in the gym Friday afternoon to celebrate the track team's accomplishment. Cochran and fellow seniors Tara Ward and Jill Thoeny presented Woodland Principal John Shoup with the championship trophy, and each of the nine athletes were introduced to the crowd.

A video of the team's state experience ---- with rock music booming in the background ---- was shown on a massive screen.

Afterward, the seniors reflected on the perfect spring ending to a stellar sports year.

"It's equally awesome because of our coach (veteran Steve Hansen) and because of how much support we have for each other," said Thoeny, who set a school record in winning the 2A shot put title with a toss of 42 feet, 6 inches. "The friendships mean a lot to everyone. There are far more supporters on this team than competitors."

Thoeny led an impressive 1-2-5 finish in the shot put for the Beavers, which nailed down the state team championship. Woodland finished with 69 points to easily outdistance runner-up Pullman (51). Jenaya Sledge was second at 39-7 1/2 and Cochran was fifth at 37-1/2.

"My goal was to set the school record and to win state, but I had no idea I could throw 42-6," Thoeny said. "When Jenaya threw over 39, that really inspired me. ... When I made the (winning) throw, I knew it was a big one. That's the most adrenaline I've ever had going through my body."

Thoeny is going from a Beaver to a Beaver. She has accepted a scholarship at Oregon State University to become the marching band's lead baton twirler.

Ward was the team's top point scorer, winning the long jump, finishing second in the 1600, third in the 800 and anchoring the seventh-place 1600 relay team. She capped her Woodland track career with 10 state medals in three years (Ward was injured as a freshman).

"We knew going into state that we had a chance to win it if everyone did their best," said Ward, who won the state cross country title as a freshman, finished fourth as a sophomore, and was second as a junior and senior. "Me, personally, I had no idea I'd win the long jump and I didn't know what to expect in any of the running events. But it worked out pretty well. It's a great way to go out."

Ward will attend Washington State University next year and may turn out for the track team.

Cochran began her high school career at Wahkiakum, moved to Ridgefield as a sophomore and finished her final two years at Woodland.

"I don't regret coming here, that's for sure," said the 18-year-old, who plans to play volleyball at Southern Oregon University next fall and possibly throw the javelin in track. "Mr. Hansen told us that the last time Woodland won state (1991), they won the Naches Invitational that season, too. So when we won the Naches Invitational this year, we thought, 'Well, we've gotta win it now.' It was a nice way to go out."

Other members of the team included Sledge, twin sisters Ashley and Alysha Kofstad, Ashley Hubenthal, Brooke Fincken and Kylie Brusco.

Hansen, who won his third girls state crown in 39 years at the helm, said this year's squad was "on a mission" when it made the long trek to Cheney. Five athletes were on the 2003 team that finished third ---- one point behind runner-up Mount Baker and two points behind champion Cascade.

"We didn't talk about winning state, but it was in their minds," Hansen said. "We knew if we went over there and performed well, we'd do it. And it was a good two days for us. We had five PRs (personal records) and two state champions, and had a bunch of other girls contribute really well.

"That," Hansen added, "is the way you win a state championship."

Rick S. Alvord is sports editor of The Daily News. He can be reached at ralvord@tdn.com or 577-2527.

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