District cross country meets always seem to unfold as a series of tableaus, each vignette played out on the green blanket of Hangman Valley Golf Course.
On Wednesday, East Valley’s girls and boys teams, and the West Valley girls team, plus two individual members of the WV boys team, qualified for state.
What follows is a sampling of the individual triumphs and disappointments that unfolded during this year’s Millwood Albertson’s/ Frontier League meet.
This year, it was Smith’s turn
Cara Smith took her turn to lead East Valley to its third straight girls title.
Smith was first for the Knights, who had six runners among the top 12 finishers, and third overall in the race, her highest finish to date.
The East Valley junior has always seemed to be at her best in big meets. She’s twice been a top 20 state finisher, last year overcoming illness and injury to be EV’s No. 2 runner.
“With my knee problems last year, I missed a lot of races,” said Smith. “Today I felt I had to be the best.”
East Valley’s girls were dominant, scoring 37 points to runner-up West Valley’s 71.
“We wanted everyone in the top 10,” said coach Nick Lazanis, in mock disappointment. “We didn’t run as fast as last year. I don’t know why. But I’m happy.”
Next Saturday, the Knights seek a third straight State AA girls championship.
The Jessicas fly for Eagles
West Valley’s Jessicas - Riehle and Ferguson - are a study in contrasts. Yet they are the reason the Eagles girls qualified as a team to state.
Riehle, a senior, finished fourth, and Ferguson, a sophomore, placed sixth in the district meet.
It has been a remarkably consistent four years for WV’s senior leader. Riehle, state champion as a freshman, has been in the top four at district each year, placing first and second twice the previous three years.
“I’ve been lucky,” she said. “It’s been fun.”
Her goal at state is to beat 18 minutes in the three-mile race.
Ferguson has essentially come from nowhere. In seventh grade she finished last in every race but one.
“Last year I was on junior varsity,” she said.
But her coach, Jim McLachlan, noted, “She almost gets better every week. She’s turning into a runner.”
Riehle said she was delighted that, for the first time since her freshman year, West Valley has qualified for state as a team.
“It’s funner when the whole team goes,” she said.
Teamwork wins for EV boys
East Valley’s Ryan Skinner wasn’t disappointed that eight Frontier League runners placed ahead of him in the boys race.
What mattered was that the rest of his EV teammates were right behind him, making the Knights district champions.
“The coaches are good about telling us not to put expectations on ourselves, just go out and run,” he said. “It worked well. This is the best year I’ve ever had and the most fun.”
Knight runners finished ninth through 12th, 15th and 16th. Their 57 point total eclipsed Riverside’s 75 and West Valley’s 80.
“Whenever someone has a bad day, someone can be counted upon to be there,” said Skinner.
Sophomore Jim Marlow and junior Bryan McCarty picked up the slack in district. McCarty had suffered illness much of the year but had his best race, placing 11th.
“Bryan had a good race and he’s upset,” said his dad and Knight coach Dave McCarty. “He wanted to be in the top 10.”
Individuals in the top 10, you see, are state qualifiers. No matter, the Knights will be there in toto.
Last year’s winner likes result
Agonizing as he watched the finish was last year’s race winner, EV graduate Chris Henderson.
Henderson, who turned 18 in September, is young enough that he could still be a team member.
Wednesday, he worried that the Knights wouldn’t win. His fears were unfounded.
“I like it more when I can control the result. I felt helpless,” he said. “They did it today and I’m proud of them.”
WV runners place second, third
Two West Valley runners, Clayton Holmes and Sean McLachlan, did their best to get the Eagles boys team back to state.
The team came up five points short, but that doesn’t take away from their efforts. Holmes, a senior, finished second in district for the second straight year. McLachlan, a sophomore, was third.
They placed behind Riverside’s Jon Ashcraft who they had beaten a week earlier in a dual meet.
“I guess he tripped or something,” said Holmes.
Neither runner felt they were at their best.
“I didn’t really get into it today,” said Holmes.
Offered McLachlan, “I didn’t feel ready at all. My legs were Jell-O, like I wasn’t rested.”
The two runners qualified individually for state next Saturday in Pasco, even if the Eagle team didn’t. Holmes was 10th at state a year ago.
“I’m happy I’m going,” said Holmes. “But it’s always better when the team is there.”
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