A trio of Northwest talents etched their names onto state track trophies recently, and they all have one thing in common: You haven’t heard the last of them.
Take Ironwood Ridge’s pint-sized Sarah Miville, for instance. Though she has yet to crack 100 pounds, she’s claimed four state titles — all during her freshman year.
Two of that championship quartet came when Miville glided toward wins in the 5A-II division’s 1,600- and 3,200-meter events, on May 7 and 10.
“It’s pretty exciting that way, cause I know I’m going to get better,” Miville, 15, said of her early reign.
Back in November, Miville bushwhacked an older competitor by 16 seconds for the 5A-II individual cross country honors, while her Nighthawks team won the division’s state championship.
All that’s missing is a net. Because oddly enough, Miville’s first love is soccer.
During spring 2004, she arrived too late for futbòl season after moving to Oro Valley from Alabama. So to make friends at Coronado Middle School, Miville chose every other sport’s punishment — distance running.
“It wasn’t very good at first. Then I realized I was out of shape, and I actually was kind of good,” Miville said. “So I just kept it up.”
Surprising as Miville was to the long-range set, her spring successes drew even more astonishment from Ironwood Ridge track coach Gary Forrest.
The freshman took a month’s rest after November’s cross-country finals wrapped up — but didn’t return to running until March, following a spate of injuries, including plantar warts and knee inflammations.
“If you’d come back and suggested that she would have won state, I’d have said, ‘Hmm, that’s a long shot,’” Forrest said. “Because she just didn’t get the practice in.”
At 5’ 4”, the phenom stands about a half-inch taller than the personal-best high jump of her teammate, Lauren Laszczak, who won the 5A-II state title on May 10.
Laszczak politely declined a photo-op to leap over her teammate, though.
“I’d just barely kick her in the face,” Laszczak laughed.
There wasn’t much doubt as to whether Laszczak would win the 5A-II title, after she watched her competition hit invisible 5-foot ceilings. For Laszczak, it was just a matter of raising the bar on herself.
“I’ve been consistent with clearing (5’ 4”), so I should’ve gotten better. But I’m still very excited,” she said.
Laszczak does it all for the Nighthawks — long jumps, triple jumps, relays, even the occasional hurdle. She began with her signature event during sixth grade when another girl taught her to jump — without a coach.
“I had the worst form ever, but I could get over the bar, so it just worked out for me,” Laszczak said.
A bit of polish, and the champ was airborne, Forrest said.
“Lauren is another one of those young ladies that you love to coach,” Forrest said. “I don’t think she’s even close to being what she could, before she’s done.”
On weekends, you might catch Laszczak on the links, as she anchors a spot on the Nighthawks’ golf squad with her 250-yard drives. But absent of clubs, distance is a human realm that belongs to Mountain View’s Donovant Grant.
Grant’s froglike leaps smoked his 5A-II state competitors by 14 inches, winning the long jump title, with a 23’ 6-¼” statement.
“For my last jump, my coach told me ‘You’ve got to hit 23,’ so I was like ‘Alright,’” Grant said.
Like Laszczak, Grant’s toughest competitor was himself. The junior outpaced his runner-up the entire meet, after jumping only since last year — when he started leaping in standard running shoes, or “flats.”
Grant’s very first jump netted 18’ 7”, on the way to a sophomore-year best of 20’ 4”. This year, he’s 3 feet beyond that — long having eclipsed the previous school record of 22’ 1”.
“If I work hard enough, I think I could possibly get 25’, if I wanted to,” Grant said.
Grant said he’s crafted a surveyor-like ability to accurately guess the lengths of his jumps, which generally leave him unsatisfied. He gauges himself against the gazelle-like and scholarship-earning leaps of California athletes — some of whom are coached by his father, at Sherman Oaks’ Notre Dame High School.
“He doesn’t think much of it, and gives me a hard time all the time,” Grant said.
“He tells me ‘You know what, you’re not doing it as good as the guys out here. You gotta step it up.’”