By training with the area’s best runners last summer, Cameron Hatch discovered the runner in himself.
The Rogers High School junior began the cross country season with a series of impressive times.
He won his first two Greater Spokane League meets and finished second at the Bullpup Invitational and fifth at Farragut State Park.
Wednesday, during a double dual meet involving Rogers and unbeatens Mead and Ferris, Hatch was reunited with his companions.
Last summer he trained with runners from Ferris who in three prior meets swept the top three individual places. He attended the Oregon distance running camp with runners from Mead.
“Before, I was intimidated by and scared of all the guys,” Hatch said. “I ran with Ferris last summer and at camp hung out with the Mead guys.
“I thought they were awesome. Now I find they’re like me.”
He also learned from them and began keeping a logbook of his mileage. From the last week of school through summer, Hatch ran 1,000 miles.
“I tried to put him in the best atmosphere possible,” said Rogers coach Steve Kiesel, who is a close friend of Ferris coach Mike Hadway.
“We went to the Prefontaine Classic, (Hatch) got to know them, and it went from there.”
Hatch also was inspired by things he heard about Rogers legend Gerry Lindgren, whose picture and feats grace his logbook.
“I knew he had run up Beacon Hill five times,” said Hatch. “I made it my goal to do it six times to one-up him.”
But it was a former teammate, Casey LaFran, who initially piqued Hatch’s interest in cross country.
Hatch didn’t like running in the eighth grade and resisted Kiesel’s request to turn out.
“I got the ‘I don’t know’ song and dance,” Kiesel said.
He eventually joined the Pirates late in his freshman season.
“What got him jump-started was that he ran with Casey and Jessica (Fry),” said Kiesel. “He saw the light, saw what hard work can do.”
Said Hatch: “Casey was nice to me and I got to know him. I ran with him and kept getting better and better.”
In his first varsity race, at Liberty Lake County Park, Hatch remembered walking up a hill until the sight of cheerleaders got him running again.
He also remembers a poor district race after dramatically improving his times.
“I mentally psyched out and didn’t run well,” he said.
Improved strength from intense hill training is one possible remedy during next Saturday’s regional meet at Hangman Valley Golf Course.
The top 15 runners will qualify for state in the race among GSL and Big Nine Conference runners. Hatch wants to be among them.
Watching last year’s state meet made him realize how special Spokane’s relationship with distance running is and the part he’d like to play.
“There are a lot of good runners in the GSL,” he said. “But this year I’d like to try for western regionals and, if I’m lucky, nationals.”
It would be fitting for someone who logged 1,000 miles and ran up Beacon Hill half a dozen times.
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