NC boys run to 3A title on big day for area boys
State boys cross country roundup
PASCO – It’s a testament to Spokane area distance runners that it’s easier to say what didn’t happen Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course rather than what did during the state cross country gathering.
For the record, the Greater Spokane League’s string of 22 straight large school boys titles came to an end when top-ranked Eisenhower, the 1987 champion, edged Lewis and Clark 73-82 for the 4A championship.
North Central won its fifth straight 3A title.
In the 4A race Lewis and Clark’s Kenji Bierig and Mead’s Anthony Gardner ran 1-2, just after Shadle Park’s Nathan Weitz and North Central’s Vince Hamilton ran 1-2 ran the 3A race. Plus, University finished second in the 3A race, Ferris was fourth in 4A and four other GSL runners finished in the top 10.
Before all of that, Lakeside and Colville went 1-2 in the 1A race, Republic and Davenport went 2-4 in the B and in 2A, 1A and B combined there were eight top-10 finishers.
And, for the record, the Tigers weren’t concerned with any streak.
“We don’t carry that, that’s not our objective,” coach Michael Lee said. “Our objective is to work as hard as we can and represent Lewis and Clark as well as we can. We gave everything we had.”
That doesn’t mean finishing second was easy.
“It’s bittersweet,” he said. “We worked our way to where we thought we had a chance for the title but these guys ran their hearts our and worked their butts off all season to get to this point. We’re proud of what they accomplished. We’re really going to celebrate Kenji. … The whole team helped him get there. That’s a team victory for us.”
As for North Central, coach Jon Knight said, “I wish I could say it gets easier, but it doesn’t. It seemed like there was a lot of pressure this week on the kids. I’m really proud of them and it means a lot to the community.”
The same could be said about the individual races.
4A: There was one big pack at the mile marker but by two miles it was Gardner and Bierig until Bierig sprinted away.
“Gardner and I talked yesterday about trying to separate out from the field and we did a good job of that,” Bierig said. “It was just a matter of who had more.”
“We had a strategy,” Gardner said. “That’s what we did and he had a better race.”
Bierig surged with a half mile to go and pulled away, finishing the 3-mile course in 15 minutes, 9 seconds, the fastest time of the day. Gardner faded to 15:27, collapsed at the finish line and was still hurting well after the race.
“That last mile I kept talking to myself,” Gardner, a sophomore, said. “I worked too hard to go back to eighth place, to lose my spot, so I tried to hold up. Kenji passed me. I was happy at least it was him beating me because we’ve been really good friends.”
It was the first time this season Bierig, a senior who was fourth last year and 36th as a sophomore, won that duel this year.
“Last week I finished a lot closer than I had before and that was a 3 mile,” Bierig said of the regional race in Wenatchee. “I just tried to hang on a little longer and hope I could do it.”
Ferris junior Alex Kimsey was fifth and senior teammate Tim Colliton was 10th.
3A: The team race went as expected but the same can’t be said of the individual race.
Anthony Armstrong of Kamiakin won the Tracy Walters Invitational to start the season by out-sprinting NC’s top two and the regional last weekend over Weitz, who had a mysterious midseason illness.
Hamilton, a senior, and Weitz, a junior, pushed the issue in the second mile and then it was a matter who could hold on.
“Once I got through the first mile I was going to go all or nothing,” said Hamilton, who doesn’t have a strong kick. “I was going to run my hardest.”
“After seeing the good performance I had a regional I was a little more confident I could hit the paces I hit before,” said Weitz, who faded badly in the final mile of his last two league meets. “I felt like I had a good go at the win. I knew that Vince and Anthony would be tough. I just had to hang on to the front runners the first two miles and then go at it the last mile and see how it comes.”
It couldn’t have gone better.
“I started trying to go at the 600 meters, right before the hill,” Weitz said. “I wanted to try to power up the hill and see what I had for the last straightaway. I felt like I was starting to separate at little bit. I didn’t know how much it was at the top of the hill so I kept pushing forward and not looking back.”
Weitz finished in 15:12, nine seconds in front of Hamilton.
“He’s a fighter,” NC senior and fifth-place finisher Casey Adams said. “That’s what’s great about Washington. There is such depth of quality people … With these people we can have different results every day.”
Adams was 14 seconds behind Hamilton with with sophomore Keith Williams 12th, senior Andrew Wordell 13th and sophomore Austen Frostad 17th.
“Times are great and all but championships are better,” Adams said. “I don’t have a watch, I don’t have the time.”
U-Hi’s Jon Smith finished ninth as the Titans had 99 points, a whopping 56 behind NC.
“I wanted them to run as hard as they could and see what happens,” U-Hi coach Mike Barbaro said. “They ran as hard as they could and we’re second in state. We’re excited for the seniors we’ve been through a lot together. NC has the experience and it showed.”
2A: Scott Carlyle of Seahome edged Dylan Croeni of Washougal by a second to lead the Mariners to the title. Carlyle finished in 15:30.8 as Sehome scored 92 points, 11 in front of Lindbergh. Junior Dayde Collins of Deer Park was seventh, the top non-senior finisher.
1A: Lakeside and Colville took their Northeast A battle to the big stage.
“At the beginning of the season, no, this is not what I expected,” Eagles coach Steve Olson said, whose team has won titles in three straight even-numbered years. “It’s what we hope how the season ends. It was the most competitive 1A cross country year ever. I thought there were four teams that could win.”
He considered the Eagles one of those teams after a late league meet when his five scoring runners, starting with senior Colton Berry who was 10th at state, and going back to sophomore Mitchell Middleton, who was fifth in that race, were bunched within 35 seconds.
“That’s when it got me really excited,” he said. “I knew we had to race well. One through seven we were phenomenal.”
Lakeside had 83 points to Colville’s 97. The Indians were led by Colton Hastings, who was sixth.
Tyler King of Coupeville cruised to a 31-second win in 15:16.9.
B: Defending state champion Lucas Graham of Northwest Christian-Lacy was a well-beaten fifth but it was his teammate Justin Holden, second last year, who assumed the throne. The surprise was who pushed the senior to the finish line.
St. George’s sophomore Maxwell Choka, in his first season of cross country, came up a half-second short of Holden’s winning time of 16:05.9.
“Last year I decided to do track,” Choka said. “I turned out to be pretty good at it and I thought why not try cross country.”
He surged past Holden with a couple hundred meters to go but seemed to settle in, allowing to Holden to regain the lead for the last 100 meters.
“I wasn’t thinking I would run that fast. I was just thinking going out with the front guys and try to get in front,” Choka said. “I thought that I had it but in my mind I thought there was a chance he could get (back) in front of me.”
Republic senior Jon Bennett was third, happy with his finish and disappointed the Tigers didn’t improve on last year’s finishing, ending up 19 points behind Tri-Cities Prep.
“We wanted to win,” he said. “We were pretty sure we would. We weren’t looking for Tri-Cities Prep, we were looking for Lacy. Last year thought we had them, they got us by 12 points. We wanted revenge. We got them but then Tri-Cities Prep came on.”
Davenport juniors Ryan Zeller and Austin Telford were sixth and eighth, respectively, and Liberty’s Cody Erickson was ninth.