Always fast, River Ridge’s Woodworth has hit her stride in the 400 meters

Taylor Woodworth knew she was fast.

She was fast on the soccer field, quick on the basketball court. Even in childhood games of tag she easily ran down her friends.

In middle school, she decided to see if the gift translated to formal track meets. It did. Woodworth won 400-meter races by 50 meters.

“I know this sounds cocky, but it was like I was running and the rest of the girls were jogging,” she said.

Two years later, Woodworth, a River Ridge High School sophomore who has never competed in either summer USATF meets or indoor track, is ranked fifth statewide in the 400 at 57.91, tops in Class 2A. She is one of seven local athletes, plus a relay team, ranked first in their event in their classification heading into this weekend’s state meets at Mount Tahoma High School (2A, 3A, 4A) and Eastern Washington University (1B, 2B, 1A).

River Ridge sprints coach Erroll Harris didn’t take long to recognize Woodworth’s talent.

At the first practice her freshman year, he sent prospective 400-meter runners on an easy run, more to evaluate their strides than their speed. Running in flat shoes, Woodworth finished in 70 seconds. She told Harris she’d run a 63 in middle school.

The fifth time she ran the event in competition, just a month into her freshman season, Woodworth broke the existing River Ridge school record of 59.95 by a full second, clocking 58.86. That was set by Necy Wade, who went on to run at the University of Washington.

“To be so good, so early is almost unheard of for some one with so little experience,” Harris said. “She’s scary good.”

Woodworth saw the record as confirmation she’d picked the right sport and immediately set more goals.

“I want to drop two seconds each year, get down in the 53s by my senior year,” she said.

Harris sees a student of her sport in Woodworth, not a prototypical quarter-miler at just 5- foot-3, but blessed with long legs for her height and residual strength from years of soccer.

“She asks questions all the time. She wants to know what needs fixing and how she can improve,” Harris said. “I told her ‘As good as you are, you’re more exceptional than you think.’ She doesn’t compare herself to others locally, not just to 2A or Washington, she wants to know how she measures up nationally.”

Fortunately for Woodworth she has enough competition at River Ridge to keep her working in practice. Senior relay teammates Taryn Lucas and Raquel Robinson will join Woodworth and freshman Jordyn Thomas at state in both the 4x400 and the 4x200.

“It’s awesome. I couldn’t ask for a better group of girls,” said Harris. “They like to compete against each other in practice so much I have to slow them down sometimes. They’ll go beyond what the practice calls for.”

“It’s really helpful having them to run against,” said Woodworth. “It’s hard to get good times running against the clock. And the relays are super fun, we really get pumped up about them.”

Ultimately, Woodworth likes the individuality of track and believes her will helps her succeed.

“I’m just a little bit stronger mentally,” she said. “The last 150 meters of a 400 is when a lot of people hit their wall. I can usually fight through.”

So much so that Harris has no trouble making an optimistic prediction.

“Before Taylor’s done with high school, she’ll be one of the best 400 meter runners to come out of Washington,” he said.

Other locals competing

Olympia girls discus thrower Beatrice Asomaning paces not just 4A throwers, but the entire state with her PR of 150-3. She also qualified for state with a third place shot put effort of 38-10.5 at the West Central/Southwest bi-district meet…. Timberline high jumper Jessica Neal is tied for first in 3A with Katie Rhodes of Mt. Spokane at 5-6. Neal also qualified for triple jump at state with a fifth place finish of 33-03.75 at districts….

In 2A, Tumwater’s Brad Blackburn is the favorite in the boys 400-meters after posting a PR of 49.59 in last weekend’s district competition. He’ll also participate on the Thunderbirds’ 4x400 relay team which, along with Sequim and Black Hills has a mark within a second of state leader W.F. West’s 3:24.56. The Bearcats state-leading quartet includes Aaron Fuller, Connor Russell, Carver Brennan and Gerardo Sanchez- Carpio. ...

Heading to Eastern Washington for the small schools meet as a the favorite in the boys 400 will be Elma’s Cody Vollan, who has recorded the only sub-50 second mark in 1A this season. Both Elma’s 4x100 and 4x400 relays qualified for state and Vollan is a member of both units…. Rainier’s Jeremiah Nubbe paces 2B boys discus throwers at 156-0….. In 1B, Caden Deutscher of Pope John Paul II is the lone runner under ten minutes in the boys 3200, with a PR of 9:50.54. Deutscher also finished second in the tri-district meet in the 1600 at 4:40.06 to qualify for state. He’s also one of six Eagles who could see action in the 4x400 relay.