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.”

You can support the San Juan Update by doing business with our loyal advertisers, and by making a one-time contribution or a recurring donation.


Categories: People, Schools, Sports

No comments yet. Be the first!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

By submitting a comment you grant the San Juan Update a perpetual license to reproduce your words and name/web site in attribution. Inappropriate, irrelevant and contentious comments may not be published at an admin's discretion. Your email is used for verification purposes only, it will never be shared.

Receive new post updates: Entries (RSS)
Receive followup comments updates: RSS 2.0