MIDDLETON--The District 6 2A and 1A trio of Butte County’s Natalya Babcock, Challis’s William Ashley and Salmon’s Johnathan Simmons compiled quite the medal collection Saturday to end the 3A/2A/1A track state championships.
Babcock, a sophomore making her second 2A track state meet appearance in as many years, placed third in Friday’s 1A girls 3,200 in 11:35.96, won Saturday’s 1A girls 800 in 2:23.54 and moved up considerably to place second in the 1A girls 1,600.
The sophomore, who won the 400, 800, 1,600 and 3,200 at the 1A District 5-6 championships, was particularly happy with her times as she broke Butte County’s 3,200 school record by 10 seconds.
While she did qualify for state in the 400, she opted not to run it after districts due to the quick turnaround she would have had to make at state.
“I ran it just for points,” Babcock said. “People were asking me, ‘Are you gonna run the 400 at state?’ And I said, ‘Nah. That’s too close to the 800 for me.’”
Babcock, whose Pirates entered state having swept the 1A District 5-6 track titles, said these are exciting times for Butte County track. The Pirates have grown in numbers to the point of qualifying relays for state, and Babcock was not the lone qualifier in distance events.
“It’s been really nice to have teammates with me in the 800,” Babcock said. “I’m no longer than little freshman all by myself.”
Ashley won the 1A boys 100 in 11.23 in a tight race, placed second in the 1A boys 400 in 51.91 and placed fourth in the 1A boys 200 in 23.63 to conclude his high school track career. He went 4-for-4 in making the podium in his event finals, as he placed sixth in 1A boys jump jump (20-10) on Friday. A longtime sprinter, Ashley chose to add long jump to his events this season with no prior experience.
“I had no idea what I was doing,” Ashley said. “But it got me a medal.” Saturday concluded an impressive multi-sport career for the Vikings for Ashley, a football and basketball player who reached state track and medaled all four years.
“It’s been really amazing to have so much support,” Ashley said. “People come up to me and I have no idea who they are and say congratulations and I say thank you.
Simmons, also a sophomore, claimed two individual state titles this weekend. He ran 9:46.63 to win Friday’s 2A boys 3,200 title, won Saturday’s 2A boys 1,600 in 4:30.10 and contributed to a sixth-place finish in the boys 4x400 in 3:39.50.
He held off West Side’s Jacob Moffat to win the 1,600.
“Last year, I got outkicked by the guy I outkicked today,” Simmons said. “When I got to the 100-meter mark, I knew I had to kick.”
Simmons was part of a distance running effort that helped Salmon place fourth in the final 2A team standings with 66 points. He credited junior and fellow state medalist Andy Gebhardt for pushing him and Salmon’s coaches for building the distance program.
“Distance events aren’t always seen as the prideful part (of track),” Simmons said. “Our coaches really prepare us.”