BISMARCK - Watford City freshman Asha Smith fell behind Nelson County classmate Ashley Perez on the final lap and began thinking she'd have to settle for second place.
But with one last burst of speed, Smith passed Perez on the final turn and held on to defend her Class B state title in the 3200-meter run. Smith finished the race in 11 minutes, 37.31 seconds, 3.08 seconds ahead of Perez.
"At the end I thought to myself, 'I'm going to try one more time to see if I can have as much of a kick as (Perez) did.' It worked."
Watford City freshman Asha Smith, right, and Nelson County’s Ashley Perez vie for the lead during the 3200-meter run in the Class B state meet Saturday at the Bismarck Community Bowl.
Smith led the group of 22 competitors for the majority of the race, with Perez just a half-stride behind the defending champion. Perez entered the state meet with a best time of 11:50.14, but shaved off 10 seconds to give Smith a run for the title.
"(Perez is) a very good competitor," Smith said. "I love competing against her, especially when she took off it helped pull me along because I felt like I was dying."
Smith said she felt the pressure of being the defending state champion, but didn't view it as a hindrance.
"When I came to state this year I was kind of freaking out," Smith said. 'I was like 'Oh my gosh. My coach is going to expect me to get first again.' But a little bit of pressure is good."
Youth was on display during the event as four of the top five finishers were freshmen or eighth-graders. Carrington eighth-grader Ashley Neumiller finished third at 11:52.78. Langdon-Munich eighth-grader Madison Gapp finished fourth with a time of 11:57.83.
Hazen sophomore Dakota Wood began her day by winning the 300-meter hurdles and finished her state meet with the 100 high-hurdle title.
Wood posted personal records in both events, besting Lisbon senior Natallie Jones each time. Wood finished the 300 hurdles in 44.30 seconds, beating Jones by 1.17. She completed the hurdles sweep by claiming the 100 title in 14.91. Wood edged out Jones by 0.09 seconds.
"I hadn't run against her before, so I didn't know how this race would go," Wood said.
Even with a comfortable lead after the clearing the final hurdle, Wood said she thought Jones was close.
"I was just thinking that she was just still right there," Wood said. "I didn't know where she was."
Wood was hoping to run the 300 with a time in the high-44-second range, closer to her previous personal record.
Neither Wood nor Jones entered the 100 hurdles as the favorite. That nod went to Mott-Regent junior Abby Honeyman, who entered with a state-best time of 15.09. Honeyman finished third at 15.67.
Local athletes place in field events
Rugby senior Aubrey Hovland won the girls high jump title and Watford City senior McKayla Haugeberg won her second title of the weekend, claiming the javelin.
Watford City freshman Ricki Lindley and Carrington junior Kayla Hochhalter both took second in their respective events Saturday.
On the boys side, Hazen junior Austin Cieslak finished fourth in the shot put and Rugby senior Josh Michels took fifth in the javelin throw. Cieslak's shot put of 50 feet, 0.5 inches was 3-03.75 behind Nelson County junior Bruce Messner for first place. Michels' javelin throw of 167-02 was well behind Dickinson Trinity senior Ben Gordon's mark of 185-02.
Hovland defended her state title with a jump of five feet, five inches, edging out Northern Cass junior Vanessa Johnson by one inch. Hovland entered Saturday's event with the fourth-best jump. Rolette-Wolford freshman Lexy Wittmayer - the state's top high jumper this season - finished third at 5-03.
Hazen sophomore Sarah Quenette finished fifth at 5-02.
A day after winning the pole vault, Haugeberg won the javelin with a throw of 139-08, two inches better than Mott-Regent junior Alyssa Olin. Carrington junior Kayla Hochhalter finished third at 135-01.
Velva-Drake-Anamoose senior Jaylen Newman finished third in the shot put behind Hochhalter with a throw of 38-04.5. Glenburn-Westhope-Newburg senior Natalie Stivers finished fifth at 35-09.
Lindley's attempt at a second consecutive triple jump title fell just a half-inch short as Maple Valley-Enderlin junior Megan Johnson posted a personal record 35-10.5. Lindley entered with a personal best jump of 37-03.