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Midvale Journal

Hillcrest track athletes ready to overcome barriers, compete again

May 01, 2021 10:06AM ● By Julie Slama

Hillcrest leads the way in the 100-meter hurdles in the March 17 meet against Cottonwood and Skyline. (Julie Slama/City Journals)

By Julie Slama | [email protected]

Hillcrest High’s Angie Jeffery loves to run—and race—until she can’t.

As a four-year varsity track and three-year cross country runner, the senior knows a little bit about building endurance, setting a tempo, pacing herself and racing. But she also knows how to pull herself out of a race.

Jeffery has costochondritis, an inflammation of the cartilage that connects a rib to the sternum. When if flares up the pain mimics that of a heart attack or other heart conditions, according to the Mayo Clinic.

She also has premature ventricular contractions where extra heartbeats in her heart’s two lower ventricles disrupt her regular heart rhythm, making it feel as if she has skipped a beat.

“When I race, my heart just gets too excited and throws off the rhythm,” Jeffery said. “It feels like I can’t breathe, like I’m choking. My chest hurts from the inflammation. It can come from anxiety or overexcitement, but it doesn’t allow me to breath efficiently and my body struggles and locks up. Then, I know I have to stop.”

It’s not every race. Jeffery knows after racing with these episodes to ice her chest, lay on her back, elevate her legs and mentally calm her breathing, but still she can’t quit.

“It’s too fun. I may say at the time that ‘I’ll never run again,’ but in a few hours I’ll change it to, ‘I’ll just go out for a little jog.’ Running clears my mind; it’s almost therapeutic,” said the student-athlete who also has played soccer for three years for the Huskies.

Jeffery isn’t Hillcrest’s top distance runner. She raced one of her best races as a freshman at state in the 3200 at 13:30, after placing fourth at region.  

Her sophomore year was plagued by her heart condition. Still, she ran to a fifth-place medal at region. Last year, she was training for the season with a stress fracture, but quickly got time off when schools were put on soft closure and spring sports were canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Now, in her senior year, Jeffery is making the most of it, wanting to better her freshman time of 13:17.

“Last year, my goal was 12:30 and I have random papers around my room with different splits to get that time. I have one for every 100-meter splits or ones where I work certain 400s. If I sit in class and know I’m racing that day, I will keep breaking it down in different splits,” she said. “A lot of the girls’ team is doing well. We have a great group of distance runners and a lot of freshmen girls came out and are killing it; they’re really improving.”

Her coach, Scott Stucki, knows Jeffery is a wild card.

“I take what I can get with her and what her body can give us,” he said.

While expectations of this year’s team may be a bit unpredictable since last season the Huskies only competed in a home meet, Stucki expects great things from his returners—senior Alaina Stonebraker in the sprints; senior Meg Standiford and junior Alycea McVey in the throwing events, junior Ella Vincent in pole vault, and senior Maggie Erekson and junior Sophia Clark in hurdles. Distance runners will include junior Erin Atkinson, seniors Megan Liddiard, Faith Amos and Paris Snow. He also knows from cross country season that freshmen Anna Ames and Claire Hastings can put in solid performances.

The boys’ track team will be led by senior distance runner Anthony Davies, who is expected to beat the 1991 school record of 9:27.37 in the 3200 as well as possibly the 1600 school mark of 4:13.44 set in 1976. 

“He already has run faster than the school time for the 3200,” Stucki said, adding that it doesn’t count since it wasn’t with a timing system.

Early this season, at the Canyons Track & Field Challenge, Davies ran 9:37.25 in the 3200. At the Snow Canyon Invitational, he ran the 1600 in 4:15.38.

Joining him to lead the team is senior sprinter and jumper Anthony Vail; senior throwers Gavin Hawley and Parker Boggess; hurdler Spencer Holladay, pole vaulter Lucas Bolster and distance runners juniors Charles Hooper and Derek Croft; seniors Greg Canals, Calab Conlon and Zack Steed, and sophomore Sam Timmerman.

“It’s been hard to predict knowing how the underclassmen will do without a season last year,” he said.

He is fiddling with relay teams. The 4x800 relay is new this year and replaces the medley relay, which gives “more opportunities for distance runners,” Stucki said.

The Huskies’ track season began with a couple home meets with hand-held times in the cold weather. Top runners proceeded to run weekend invitational meets, including the Copper Hills Invitational that after a few events in the pouring rain and snow was canceled as the timing system kept malfunctioning.

“We’ll likely have a few athletes get to state, but it’s hard to know how well we’ll do there at this point,” he said. “But nobody knows quite who and what they have. All the teams are in the same situation because of COVID canceling last year.”

Even the location for the state meet, and how it may look different this year during the pandemic, was undetermined at press deadline.

For Jeffery, she’s just happy to be back running.

“A lot of us are happy to be here, having a season, doing what we love,” she said.