Larson still on fire – but she douses them now

May 26, 2011 

Kris Larson’s storied athletic career at Olympia High School has never been matched.

What Larson did in her four years at Olympia – from 1980-84 – is astonishing: A nine-time letterwinner in four sports, 11 medals at the state track and field meet, a school record holder, and earning a Division I scholarship.

This weekend at the 4A/3A/2A Star Track XXIX state championships at Mount Tahoma Stadium marks 30 years since Larson first turned heads on the track and field circuit at the 1981 Class AA state track and field championships at Highline Memorial Stadium. It was a sign of things to come in what was a decorative high-school career.

On May 28-29, 1981, Larson, as a 15-year-old freshman, won the state title in the shot put (39 feet, 53/4 inches) and finished third in the javelin (135-4). It would be one of her three state titles and 11 total medals in her four years, and she capped her career by winning the shot a second time as a senior (45-21/4).

She won three state titles – two in the shot, one in the discus – earned three runner-up finishes, four third-place marks and a fourth-place between the three throwing events.

Now 45, Larson still puts her athletic ability to good use. In 2006, she was the first black woman to be named fire captain in the Los Angeles Fire Department, a position she still holds.

The Los Angeles area is where Larson calls home since she graduated from UCLA in 1989 with a degree in sociology.

The same work ethic and teamwork she had at Olympia carries over to the fire lines .

“You’re used to working hard and still having the whole team aspect,” Larson said. “Same thing in the fire department – you’re a team. Toughness from competing in sports translates to competitiveness in the fire department.”

At 5-foot-91/2, Larson was an all-around athlete for the Bears. She earned nine varsity letters in four sports – soccer, swimming, basketball, and track and field.

Not to mention she also played fastpitch and, yes, football as a student at Washington Middle School. She had the size, strength and the ability to dominate on the offensive and defensive lines.

She stopped shots as the starting goalkeeper in soccer as a freshman, then swam district-qualifying times as a freestyles specialist her sophomore year.

She was a three-year starter and a two-time all-Black Hills League selection in basketball, and part of back-to-back BHL title teams. She finished as the school’s career leader in rebounds (611) and second in career scoring (736 points). She guided the Bears to a fifth-place finish at the Class AA state tournament as a sophomore in 1982. It’s still the school’s only state trophy in girls basketball.

Track and field is where Larson shined. She signed with UCLA in 1984, and broke the UCLA record in the discus and finished runner-up at the NCAA championships in 1989 (187-3).

Still, some of her fondest memories are from her high-school days. Like when she was part of the freshmen girls basketball team that went undefeated.

“It was such a good group of girls who stayed together all four years,” Larson said, citing former teammates such as Debbie Cooper, Melanie Lamb and Cheryl Brandell.

“I got a lot of enjoyment with all the sports I did in high school,” Larson said. “I spent more time on the track and the softball and baseball fields.”


For the first time in 13 years, Thurston County will host a WIAA state championships event – the Class 3A fastpitch tournament, which is Friday and Saturday at the Regional Athletic Complex (RAC) in Lacey.

Capital (11-10) is the only 3A South Sound team in the 16-team tournament. First-round games are: 10 a.m., Mount Si vs. Wilson, Everett vs. Juanita, Bellevue vs. Bonney Lake and Sedro-Woolley vs. Kamiakin; noon, Capital vs. Mount Spokane, Bainbridge vs. Peninsula, Kelso vs. Holy Names and University vs. Mountlake Terrace.


John Schultz, who recently retired at Centralia’s football coach after 22 seasons, has been hired at the K-12 principal at the Mary M. Knight School District. ... Timberline assistant wrestling coach and former longtime head coach John Birbeck and former longtime Elma wrestling coach Richard Graham are two of 10 elected to the Washington State Chapter of the National Wrestling Hall of Fame. The induction ceremony is at 4 p.m. June 11 at the Holiday Inn Convention Center in Everett. ... Saint Martin’s women’s basketball finalized its five-player 2011-12 recruiting class: MacKenzie Taylor, a 5-10 forward from Freeman; Lauren Tigue, a 6-foot post from Draper, Utah; Brooke Paulson, a 5-9 forward from White River; Angela Gelhar, a 5-6 guard from Prairie; and Jordyn Richardson, a 5-9 guard/wing from Tumwater. Gelhar and Richardson signed with SMU in November.

Meg Wochnick: 360-754-5473


Kris Larson, who attended Olympia High School from 1980-84, won 11 medals in four years at the state track and field championships. Her results, with distances in feet and inches:

First place

1981Shot put39-53/4


1984Shot put45-21/4

Second place




Third place


1982Shot put41 73/4


1983Shot put40-6

Fourth place


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