File photo.

CHENEY — A comeback that was months in coming brought Goldendale’s Alden Williams within inches of a Class 2B 1,600-meter state championship.

A season-long friendly rivalry brought Zillah’s Kassy Garza within one inch of a Class 1A high jump state title.

In their respective games of inches, the two runners-up provided the highlights for Yakima Valley athletes Thursday on the opening day of events at the Class 1A, 2B and 1B state track and field championships at Eastern Washington University.

Another near miss came in the 1B boys 1,600 as Riverside Christian senior Isaac Immel, one of the few contestants with state-meet experience after COVID put competitions on hold for two years, placed third.

The 2B 1,600 provided the day’s drama as Williams grabbed the lead in the third lap. He and Chewelah’s Zeke Crockett gutted out a stride-for-stride final lap that saw Crockett prevail in a time of 4 minutes, 28.97 seconds to Williams’ 4:29.16 — a personal best for Williams by nine seconds.

“I like to let the pace play out and then step it up and attack,” said Williams of his third-lap move from fourth to first. In the final 200, “I heard him (Crockett) coming and tried to hold my form.”

Williams’ return to form was about 10 months in coming, according to Goldendale coach Juli Rising. He suffered a stress fracture in last spring’s COVID-twisted cross-country season and worked to rehabilitate it in the ensuing months.

“He worked his tail off all winter long,” Rising said. “For him to come back from where he was 10 months ago is pretty amazing.”

For Garza, the state meet marked a reunion of sorts with Freeman’s Stephanie Chadduck, who edged the Zillah senior at last month’s Pasco Invitational. On Thursday, Garza cleared 5 feet 2 inches, an inch shy of her personal best and an inch shy of Chadduck’s winning state mark.

“We’ve always been competitive. I knew it would come down to her or me,” said Garza, who added that she felt little pressure on the state stage. “I felt really good — my approach never felt better.”

In the 1B boys 1,600, Immel finished in 4:40.83, more than 10 second faster than his season’s best and just one second shy of a personal best he set last year. As a freshman, he placed fifth at state.

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