Cody Triana was unbeatable in track and field during his eighth-grade season — all competitors bested, and usually by a wide margin.
Then came his freshman year at Rochester High School.
“I went from not losing a race and going undefeated,” Triana remembers, “to being one of the slowest members of the team.”
He wasn’t alone in making that usual awkward transition into the world of high school athletics. Teammate Kendra Sanford can empathize with the growing pains.
“I couldn’t stand the 300 hurdles back then,” Sanford said. “My coach just told me to stick with it. So I did, but I still didn’t like it. Joke’s on me, I guess.”
Fast forward three years and the two seniors give the Warriors the rare distinction of being the only track and field program in the state this season to have a pair of state champion hurdlers on their roster.
Triana is coming off a junior year where he captured the Class 1A state title in the 110-meter hurdles, while Sanford is two years removed from winning the state title in the 300-meter hurdles.
“It’s pretty remarkable,” Rochester coach Troy Holman said about the accomplishment, “but they’ve put in the work. It’s year round for them. There’s not a time they aren’t out there trying to improve.”
Both athletes look to close out their high school careers on a high note — Triana looking to defend and Sanford looking to return.
Despite being classified as a 2A school, Rochester, like it has in other sports this year, will compete in the 1A Evergreen Conference during the regular season before tackling the 2A ranks in the postseason.
“Cody and Kendra have kind of taken on that underdog mentality,” Holman said. “If we are still in 1A, Cody is probably the odds-on favorite to win another state title. It’s going to be tough, but we certainly are optimistic.”
Triana’s winning time in the 110 hurdles of 14.94 seconds in last year’s 1A state finals would have placed him third in the 2A ranks, clocking in behind champion Andrew Stich of Lakewood (14.74) and runner-up Hunter Hanlon of Squalicum (14.87).
The top two finishers have since graduated, leaving the door wide open for Triana, whose personal record of 14.64, set at last year’s 1A Evergreen Conference championships, would have been enough to win state at the 2A level in 2014.
Despite the bump in classification and the deeper competition that comes with it, Triana continues to concentrate his efforts on what he is able to do as opposed to who he’s running against.
“If you’re worried about the person next to you, you’re in trouble,” Triana said. “You’re more focused on your form and what you need to do in the race than the other runners. If you don’t have those down, you’re not going to do very well no matter who you’re running against.”
However, it may not matter what classification he is running in because it appears his grueling offseason routine has already started to pay off. He opened the season at the Rainier Icebreaker meet on Saturday by winning the 110 hurdles in a time of 15.06.
The winning time was a full second ahead of the runner-up and came in less-than desirable weather conditions. By comparison, in Triana’s first meet as a junior he stopped the clock in 16.04.
While Triana is off and running for his senior season, Sanford missed the opening meet. She had surgery in the summer to repair a torn meniscus in her knee.
“I haven’t really had any issues yet,” said Sanford about her injury. “It’s been going pretty good.”
Sanford, who anticipates being ready to compete once league meets kick in, won the 1A state crown in the 300 hurdles as a sophomore with a time of 45.57.
That time would have been fast enough to repeat as champion last year, but reoccurring knee issues — she had a similar operation on the same knee following her freshman year — slowed her significantly at state last year, leading to surgery in August.
Despite the injury, Sanford still placed eighth in the 300 hurdles and fifth in the 100 hurdles at state as a junior.
“Kendra’s a fighter,” Holman said. “She really had to dig deep just to make the state finals last year.”
Injuring her knee during the state 100 hurdles, Sanford gave a gutsy performance in placing last year that may have been even more impressive than her state title run, and certainly showed the drive she possesses as she pushed the pain aside and got through the 300 state preliminaries on sheer will.
“I really just wanted to make it back to the finals,” said Sanford about her mindset after being injured. “I knew I could have made things worse by running, but I just decided to forget about the pain.”
Having two of the state’s premier hurdlers should make the Warriors’ transition to 2A a bit more manageable.
“Our top athletes, like Cody and Kendra, can compete against anyone, but we’ve told the kids that this year is going to be different,” Holman said. “Making districts this year would be like making state last year; and making it to state would be like placing at state.
“I think they’re ready for it though.”