They may not always know who’s No. 1 at East Valley, but they do know how to respect their elders.
As the Frontier League season begins today, juniors Ann Marie Adams and Cara Smith have supplanted senior Angie Simmers as the No. 1 runner for the top-ranked Knights cross country team.
Yet if Simmers - sixth place or better at the last three State AA meets is concerned about running No. 3, she has a funny way of showing it.
“I think she’s kind of taken over being the helpful person,” Adams said. “She’s kind of like the mother over us.”
What’s a mother to do? Seems like just yesterday that Simmers was losing the state championship on a lean to fellow freshman Jessica Riehle of West Valley.
Riehle finished third in ‘94 and 10th last season. Simmers took sixth both times - sort of a wash in her head-to-head with Riehle - but has certainly benefited from the efforts of her EV “daughters.”
With a bagful of young, talented runners, EV has won the last two state titles - both times in narrow fashion over South Whidbey - and figures to be in position next month for a triple treat.
Adams, 18th at state last year, and Smith (15th) have led the way this year in wins at the All-Valley and Sandy (Ore.) Invitational. At meets, the Knights have held their own against - or beaten - AAA top-ranked Ferris and No. 3 University.
The scary part about the Knights is their depth. Coach Nick Lazanis said Simmers, the defending District 7-AA champion, may ultimately rise to the top again. If Simmers doesn’t, sophomore Korinda Godwin and freshman Crystal Gerkey may make moves upward.
“We don’t have people (such as Ferris’ Jennifer Smith) right up at the very front, but we’re all so close together,” Adams said. “We can’t say for sure who’s No. 1.”
Speaking of No. 1, no girls team at EV had won a state title until the ‘94 cross country team.
Last fall, Lazanis tried to quell talk of repeating. Until all the figures were added after last year’s race, some Knights thought South Whidbey had won. The final was EV 92, SW 96.
“You think a lot about the team at state,” Adams said. “I know I wasn’t thinking about my placement. But when I came in, I thought I had let the team down.”
Any conversation about a third title occurs with Lazanis out of the room.
“We don’t even talk about it,” Lazanis said. “But they know. They may talk about it, but I avoid the subject.”
He doesn’t, however, balk at offering compliments to his runners.
Smith, Lazanis said, worked on strengthening herself to avoid leg injuries she fought as a freshman and sophomore.
Lazanis terms Godwin and Adams “workaholics” for the miles they put in over the summer. Adams estimates she logged 275 hotweather miles.
Senior Holly Weiler, EV’s No. 6, stepped up last year for a 48th-place finish at state. Junior Carmen Cook, 27th at state as a frosh, still works to overcome a stress fracture suffered a week before last year’s district. In her place is Crystal Cook, her sophomore sister.
Lazanis faces a different situation than last year, when he could mix-and-match 11 runners for seven spots. Unless Carmen Cook returns, his current seven should remain unchanged.
“I think with a smaller team they bond and get closer,” Lazanis said. “I think they gel faster.”
This is Lazanis’ 12th year with the EV varsity. Year No. 13 should usher in a new challenge for the burgeoning school: a move from the Frontier to the Greater Spokane League.
Maybe then the Knights won’t catch people off-guard, as they did last month by winning the Sandy Invite.
“A lot of people came up to us and asked, ‘Where’s East Valley?”’ Adams said. “And we said, ‘The same town as Ferris.”’
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MEMO: This sidebar appeared with the story: FRONTIER CROSS COUNTRY Information on Frontier League cross country, which begins today: Defending league and District 7-AA champions: Boys - West Valley. Girls - East Valley. State results: EV’s girls won their second consecutive state title. WV’s boys finished second, 38 points behind Gig Harbor. Top boys returners: Clayton Holmes and Sean McLachlan, WV; Jon Ashcraft, Riverside; Dustin Sletner, Bryan McCarty and Ryan Skinner, EV; Paul Abernathy, Clarkston; Kory Sullivan, Colville; Tim Harding, Pullman. Top girls returners: Angie Simmers, Ann Marie Adams, Cara Smith, Korinda Godwin and Holly Weiler, EV; Jessica Riehle, Cori Watke and Amy Martinsen, WV; Jeannette Zimmer, Cheney; Eryn Cook and Erin McMahon, Pullman; Kyley Kirby, Colville; Nora Zaprzalka, Riverside. Change: The seven-team league will qualify two boys and two girls teams to state, rather than one each. Opening meets: Pullman and Riverside at Cheney; Colville and Clarkston at WV. EV begins Oct. 10 at Riverside.