Toward the end of a long day, Chandler High School girls track coach Eric Richardson decided to pull a fast one on one of his stars.
“Get up here,’’ he said sternly to junior Larissa Matthews. “How come you’re not getting ready for the 4 by 400?”
Matthews protested, but the coach was having none of it. They went back and forth a couple times before he smiled and let off her the hook.
No, he hadn’t asked to her run the 1,600-meter relay. But he asked enough of her Saturday – including running an event she dislikes – and she delivered enough to help the Wolves take the team title in the Aztec Invitational at Tempe Corona del Sol. Matthews won the 100 hurdles, was on the winning 400 relay team and she came within a head of winning the 300 hurdles.
Chandler finished with 136.33 points to edge Mesa Mountain View, which totaled 125.5. Mesa Dobson was third with 66.5 and Chandler Hamilton was fourth with 61.5
In the boys competition, D.J. Johnson won the 800 and 1,600 to lead Mountain View to the team title with 119 points. Corona del Sol finished second with 105 and Chandler was third at 84.75.
Michael Dunn of Chandler won three events, taking the long jump, triple jump and high jump.
Chandler, the defending 5A-I girls state champion, came into the first test of the high school track season missing a few pieces. The Wolves had several athletes who passed up the meet for another big test – the SATs.
A couple others were injured and three athletes started for Chandler in the 5A-I basketball title game Friday night.
Richardson and the Wolves were relying on dependable stars such as Matthews.
“She’s very consistent,’’ he said. “She’s an excellent sprinter, but she really excels in the hurdles. That’s her ticket. She knows it.”
Which is part of why she’s running the 300 hurdles, even though she isn’t too fond of it.
“Colleges don’t want a one-hit wonder,’’ Richardson said, so he has her run the longer hurdles to showcase her versatility.
“It’s hard,’’ she said. “You have to start out fast, but you have to save something or you get around the corner and you just die.”
Then there’s the timing challenge, getting over the hurdles without breaking or altering stride.
“With the 100 hurdles, your momentum carries you through,’’ she said.
Chandler also received strong performances from Angela Reyes, who won the 100, was third in the 200 and on the winning 400 team, and Micsha Carson who was fourth in 100 hurdles, second in the long jump and third in the shot put.