Lakeside’s cross country program was a joke when Matt Sullivan assumed coaching duties five years ago.
The joke’s over.
Senior Mike Witt topped the field, and Lakeside placed its five scoring runners in the top 26 on Saturday as the Eagles commanded the boys State 2A cross country championship.
“To be perfectly honest, I think we’ll be stronger next year,” said Sullivan, who could return juniors Perry Welch, Trevor Blackwell, Trevor Smith and Brett Larson, and sophomore Shawn Close.
Speaking of Close, or close, it wasn’t. The Eagles scored 49 points and had all five scorers across the line at Sun Willows Golf Course before East Valley (Yakima) brought home its No. 4. EV won last year’s AA race, but ended up in 2A rather than 3A under the state’s reclassification.
Lakeside won the third state title in school history and the second in a boys sport. The wrestling team is the defending state champion.
Sullivan didn’t have enough runners for a team when he became coach in 1993. Witt, a baseball player at heart, turned out for cross country in ‘94 because Sullivan is also the baseball coach.
Witt discovered an affinity for running and left baseball behind. Witt went undefeated in Great Northern League races this year, and led the Oct. 30 district meet until the final stretch, when Riverside’s Bill Warner and Chewelah’s Neil Small passed him.
“At district, when I took the lead a mile into the race I didn’t go strong enough,” Witt said. “This time I tried to make a more decisive move.”
Witt, the leader at 1-1/2 miles, surrendered his lead momentarily to Omak sophomore Matt Harriman. Witt regained the edge near 2-1/2 miles, when the runners came into view of spectators.
“I guess I just had a little more guts,” said Witt, whose 5,000-meter time of 16 minutes, 17.4 seconds, beat Harriman by 3.6 seconds.
Small, the lone holdover from Chewelah’s state-title teams of ‘95 and ‘96, moved up from fifth at the halfway point to take fourth in 16:30. District 7 champ Warner was ninth in 16:45.
Welch (16:55), Blackwell, Smith and Close were bunched within 13 seconds.
Newport’s girls cemented themselves as a ‘98 state favorite by placing second, with underclassmen recording the five scores. Top-ranked Ephrata, guided by champion Staci Hunter (18:56.4), a freshman, beat the Grizzlies 44-51.
Newport sophomore Sarah Bell, the district champ, placed third in 19:50. Bell had the early lead but dropped to third by 1,500 meters.
“The two of them got by, so I tried to hold on for third,” Bell said of Hunter and Connell’s Lana Noble.
Ephrata senior Marcy Kinzel slipped by Bell at two miles, but Bell put on a surge for a 4-second final gap.
Lakeside senior Connie Williams scored the school’s first state placing, running 20:18 for ninth.
Riverside, running with six underclassmen, had no runner in the top 37 but bunched together after that to place fourth.
The Rams have seven top-four finishes since 1985.
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