Far from the spectators, when the race had boiled down to two competitors, the chit-chat began.
“What’s your name? What grade are you in?” Columbia-Burbank sophomore Cassie Sloan asked St. George’s freshman Samantha Clarke.
Sloan, like many people at Sun Willows Golf Course, didn’t know Samantha Clarke from Arthur C. Clarke.
But Clarke etched her name into every future state cross country program by beating Sloan to the finish line. Clarke completed the 5,000 meters in 19 minutes, 39.1 seconds, 12 seconds ahead of the state’s defending 3,200 champion in track and field.
“I think she was just trying to be friendly,” Clarke said of Sloan’s race banter.
“I was afraid she was going to pass me the whole last mile.”
Clarke is the Dragons’ third state champion in five years, following in the steps of Chrissy Peterson (‘93) and Edie DeNiro (‘94).
Unlike Peterson and DeNiro, Clarke outraced runners from larger schools. Saturday’s meet was a combined 1A/B affair.
St. George’s scored 80 points to place second to Chelan (38), a 1A school. The Dragons raced with two freshmen, two sophomores, two juniors and one senior.
Dragons coach Ross Thomas said he first became aware of Clarke’s competitive nature when she finished second at an invitational. Clarke’s eyes flashed some definite anger when the winner’s name was announced.
Clarke ran Saturday’s first mile in 5:53 for a 3-second lead on Sloan. The two ran shoulder to shoulder for the middle of the race, then Clarke pulled away.
Junior Sarah Harris finished sixth in 20:43 for Wilbur-Creston’s top placing in history.
St. George’s also topped all Class B schools in the boys race, but its 132 points trailed Chelan (41) and LaCenter (129). Senior Zach Blume ran 16:57 to place 14th for the Dragons, who competed with no other seniors.
Colfax senior Hans Petersen, the district champ, had the area’s top effort, an eighth-place 16:36. Brothers John (16:46) and Joe (16:59) Russell of Freeman placed 10th and 15th, respectively.
Darrington junior Ned Miller put on a torrid final kick to win in 16:04.6.