Female Athlete of the Year: Big finish for Kentwood’s Holly DeHart’s leads her to the top of the heap for Covington/Maple Valley

Determined Holly DeHart wouldn’t be denied her golden finish

Holly DeHart didn’t want to have any regrets.

Not at the conclusion of her senior year.

Not ever.

So when the Kentwood High sprinter’s friends were enjoying the final days of their high school lives — hanging out with peers, staying up late to watch movies and essentially being teenagers — DeHart remained intently focused on a single goal. And a golden one at that.

“There were nights when I wish I would have been able to go out,” admitted the recent graduate. “My senior year, I wanted to go have fun, but I also didn’t want to have any regrets at the end of the state (track) meet. I didn’t want to wish I did this or that. At the beginning of the season, when I wasn’t performing as well as I could, it was a wake-up call.

“I didn’t want to be stuck losing at the end.”

DeHart left nothing to chance. Consumed by winning, she often practiced with the Conquerors after school, and her club squad — the Flying AJ’s based out of Tacoma — shortly thereafter. What little time DeHart had left over, she spent focused on academics. And when the chips were officially put on the table in late May at Mount Tahoma High during the Class 4A state meet, there wasn’t a local athlete who delivered a bigger finish than the Kentwood sprinter.

Bolstered by the perfect amount of determination and ability, DeHart soared at the state meet, bringing home gold-medal finishes in the 100-meter and 200-meter dash, and running key legs on Kentwood’s victorious 4 x 100 and 4 x 200 relay teams.

DeHart’s grand performance at the state meet also proved to be the key ingredient to helping the Conquerors run away with their first-ever team title in girls track and field. The DeHart-led Conquerors won the crown with an eye-popping 66 points, well ahead of second-place Inglemoor (43).

Today, DeHart can add one more gold medal to her mantel as she has been chosen the  Reporter’s Female Athlete of the Year.

There wasn’t a more deserving recipient, Kentwood track and field coach Steve Roche said.

“Man, she meant everything to this team,” Roche said. “She bought in for four years to the idea of hard work, she listened to coaches, took care of her body, and dedicated herself to year-round preparation. The state meet was a culmination to all of her years of preparation. That was more than just one day or one week.

“And she deserved all of it, too.”

Teammate and fellow sprinter Mykala Benjamin agreed.

“I was really proud of her. I know how she works, and what she had been through,” Benjamin said. “We all knew she could do it and she proved us right.”

Yet, DeHart wasn’t just good at the state meet. She was untouchable.

In addition to winning both the 100 and the 200, the 18-year-old Kentwood standout also established new personal bests in each event. DeHart broke the tape in the 100 in 11.97 seconds. In the 200 (which DeHart also won in 2010), she crossed the finish line in 24.29 seconds.

“I knew I had it in me. I knew I could run those times, but, I did kind of surprise myself,” she said.

And now?

“I feel accomplished,” she said.

And for good reason. Not only did DeHart bolt to a fantastic finish, but in the process, she opened the eyes of many college recruiters.

A lightly recruited track standout during the regular season, DeHart’s postseason performance grabbed the attention of all the right people. A day after dazzling everyone in attendance at Mount Tahoma High, DeHart was summoned to Washington State University for an interview and a walk-through of the track facility.

“They wanted to get me out for a visit, and called the day after the state meet,” said DeHart, who noted that the Cougars had shown some interest during the regular season. “They flew me out Sunday night (the day after state). I don’t think they would have been as persistent (if not for her performance at state). They were interested in me before, but after state, they were more excited for me to come out.”

Before meeting with coaches at Washington State, DeHart had seriously considered competing at Eastern Washington University next year. The one-day trip to Pullman, however, swayed the Kentwood star to the Palouse.

“I think for a while, I was set on Eastern,” DeHart said. “I felt as though that was my only option. WSU came out of nowhere, asked me to come for a visit, and it was perfect. Everything was perfect.”

So perfect, in fact, that DeHart will be competing for the Cougars next season on scholarship.

And will leave Kentwood without a single regret.