Neither Nathan or Kendra Weitz is sure if the energy they expend cheering for each other has a negative effect on their own performance.
They are convinced, however, that if the one running first has a good race, another is going to follow for the stars of this running family.
“Usually if Nathan does well, I know it’s my time to do well,” Kendra said. “It usually ends up we kind of mirror each other.”
“And vice versa, too,” Nathan injected. “It’s kind of funny how that happens. Not all of the time, but some of the time.”
That’s usually a good thing for the Shadle Park distance program, where Nathan is a senior and Kendra a junior, though both attend the Oaks Academy.
Nathan is the defending State 3A champion cross country champion after placing 13th twice. At last season’s state track meet he placed second in both the 1,600 and 3,200 meters.
In her two seasons, Kendra has twice been fifth in cross country and third in the 3,200 with a fifth and a third in 1,600.
“I would much rather race first to get over with my nerves, then I would be able to focus on Nathan’s race,” she said. “My favorite race that was like that was Footlocker regionals last year. I made it (to nationals) and I was super excited when I got done with my race. Then I was cheering for Nathan and he made it.”
They are the first brother-sister combination to accomplish that in the history of the Footlocker-sponsored competition, which comes after the high school cross country season.
“I’m pretty much the same way as Kendra,” Nathan said. “I like racing first and then watching Kendra race. At Footlocker I was nervous warming up and I couldn’t see her race.”
Otherwise they’re more interested in Highlander accomplishments than individual success. Shadle Park won the girls cross country championship Kendra’s freshman year and was second last year, a result Nathan clearly envies.
Nathan was more excited about a team trophy the Highlanders got for winning a division of the Nike postseason meet, even if it wasn’t the top division.
“I felt more of an accomplishment doing that, working together as a team, shooting for the same goals,” he said. “Between that and winning state individually, there’s something about the team aspect that is more satisfying. The individual win was cool but it just didn’t have the same effect.”
So how good are they?
Kendra ran a school-record time of 10 minutes, 20.09 seconds in the 3,200 meters last spring, the seventh-best time in state history. Still, she finished third behind Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak and Katie Knight of North Central.
“Kendra is the fourth-fastest runner in the state (including 2A star Maddy Meyers) right now,” said Bob Isitt, the Highlanders’ girls cross country coach and distance coach for the track teams. “A few years ago her times would have been the best. No state had a No. 3 runner in their division run a 10:20, that’s what Kendra did. That’s incredible.”
Despite being 13th in state cross country as a freshman and sophomore and placing third in the 3,200 in the spring as a freshman, the quality of local runners didn’t even allow Nathan to make it to the state track meet as a sophomore. Yet the next fall he was the state cross country champ with two silver medals to follow in the spring.
The cross country title almost didn’t happen. Weitz got sick about midway through the season and struggled to finish races, although his early strength usually had him comfortably among the leaders.
“Actually I didn’t find out what was wrong,” he said. “They thought I had anemia first. After that they thought I gave myself asthma from working too hard but that wasn’t it either, so we’re totally clueless what went on.
“It was crazy. … The next week I came through at regionals. That was pretty much the best feeling race I’ve ever felt.”
Running far and fast comes naturally in the Weitz house.
Their mother, Linda, was a school record holder for the distance races in her Oregon high school and her brother, Steve Surface, was a state cross country champion before running for the University of Washington.
Father Lynn ran for West Valley, winning the state 2-mile title in 1974 before going on to run for Biola College. His sister, Dianne, was on West Valley’s first cross country team in 1973 with sisters, Jan and Judy, part of the 1978 State 2A champions, placing fourth and first, respectively.
Isitt wonders how fast the siblings might be if they got in the miles from winter training (in the offseason), or even in the summer. This summer they took a trip to Zambia and then attended a church camp.
“I believe they are both better than what they have shown so far,” Isitt said. “It’s not for a lack of wanting to (get the miles in). With more consistent offseason mileage, it’s scary how good they can be.”