On to State!

Posted May 20, 2019 at 5:49 am by

Brianna Hess crosses the finish line - Photo by Jack Hess

Upset Stom­ach Fuels Upset in Girls 200 meters 2B Dis­trict Cham­pi­onships as Hess leads FHHS Track Team to State

By Mike Martin

On Sat­ur­day, May 18th, FHHS junior, Bri­an­na Hess, cap­tured gold in the Girls 4x100 relay and 200 meter dash 2B Bi-Dis­trict Cham­pi­onships in improb­a­ble fashion.

“On a good morn­ing I’m not much of a morn­ing per­son,” she said. 

But on the morn­ing of the biggest track event of her life she woke up with an upset stom­ach.  In just her 6th 200 meters 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’,” remem­bers 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 is 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 says.  “There is a spir­it in this school. It feels like 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.

FHHS Track and Field coach, Shan­non Plum­mer, says that 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 x 100 meters relay.  She fin­ished in 7th 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 x 100 meter relay team­mates were count­ing on her speed to help them with their team goal of a trip to the state finals.

Then came a return text from her dad.  “He said, ‘Push your­self, you can do this,’” she recalls. 

There was some of the push­ing that was left to Coach Plum­mer, as well.  He sought out the senior offi­cial to have Bri­an­na rein­stat­ed for the 200 meters and the 4 x 100 meters relay.  It prob­a­bly didn’t hurt that a Coach Plum­mer whis­per could be heard a coun­try mile away. 

Bri­an­na thinks that nerves may have con­tributed to her nau­sea.  Being a new ath­lete at a new school she said that she rec­og­nized the school names like LaCon­ner and Con­crete but not the names of the girls she’d be run­ning against which may have contributed.

“I guess some of my stom­ach issues may have been but­ter­flies,” Bri­an­na says. 

Then she found her own intesti­nal for­ti­tude when she crouched down on the track and pushed her spikes into the track.  As she pressed her heels onto her start­ing blocks for the Girls 200 Meters final she began to feel the sup­port from the com­mu­ni­ty being behind her.  By the time the starter’s pis­tol went off she said that there were no nerves…just freedom.

“I can’t explain it,” she said.  “It was like I was fly­ing.  No oppo­nents.  Just open, blue sky in front of me. I felt com­plete­ly free.”

The upset stom­ach turned into a major upset at the fin­ish line as she reeled in the gold with a time of 27.63 sec­onds trim­ming over a sec­ond off of her per­son­al best.  She earned her­self anoth­er fer­ry ride and bus ride, this time to Spokane where she’ll com­pete in the WIAA 2B State Cham­pi­onships in the 200m against a bunch of kids whose names she does­n’t know.

Lat­er Sat­ur­day after­noon she helped her relay team of Jaclyn Domenech, Katie Place, and Alex Hol­man take the gold, as well.

When it comes to the 200 meters, the wide-open blue skies are the lim­it. “I have no idea of how fast I can go,” Bri­an­na says.  “But as long as I know that this com­mu­ni­ty has my back I will con­tin­ue to push myself to my max.”

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Categories: People, Schools, Sports

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