Come Saturday, Grant Marchant figures to be alone at the finish line of the 3,200 meters at the State 1B track meet.
His season-best time is half a minute better than anyone else’s, and if form holds, it will be his third state title of the weekend.
He already has four others, and he’s just a junior.
But as the trophies pile higher, they rest on a sturdy shelf of humility.
“It’s fun to win these,” said Marchant, a soft-spoken junior at Valley Christian High School. “But at the same time you have to stay humble, because there are guys out there who could make you look like the guy who’s finishing last.
“My dad always says I’m a big fish in a little pond,” Marchant said.
Which doesn’t make his achievements any less impressive. Marchant also will be favored to win the 800 and 1,600 at this weekend’s meet at Eastern Washington University, and not just because the competition hails from the smallest schools in the state. Marchant’s season-best time of 9 minutes, 50.16 seconds in the 3,200 would put him on the medal stand in the 2B and 1A meets as well.
Regardless, the small pond fits just fine, especially with the tight-knit group at Valley Christian. “We are definitely close here as far as friendships and relationships,” said Marchant, who commutes from Post Falls. “It’s never been just about the track.”
At first it was everything but track. Soccer, basketball and football, which for Marchant ended for good with a dislocated kneecap during his freshman year.
Track offered a chance for rehab, but head coach Joel Hayek saw something more. “He threw me in the (3,200) to see how I would do, and I guess I did OK,” Marchant said.
Two months later, as the only freshman in the field, Marchant won the race in 10:21.25, almost 7 seconds ahead of the runner-up. A day earlier, he took the 1,600 by a whopping 8 seconds.
Last year, the toughest competition came during practices. Marchant won the 800 and the 3,200, but finished second in the 1,600 to teammate Richard Nyambura, an exchange student from Kenya.
“It really stepped up my game to have him here,” Marchant said. “It was always nice to have Richard as a pacer, because it would make my times better.”
Nyambura also was the difference-maker in the team race, which the Panthers won by two points over Crescent.
This year, the team is young. Marchant will earn the big points at state, but he’s been making them off the track as well.
“He leads by example, and his hard work is an inspiration to the rest of the team,” said Hayek, who’s now in his fourth year. “His character helps keep things light and fun.”
In turn, Marchant credits Hayek and assistant Piper Newby with a training regimen that’s helped him to the finish line.
Marchant’s first event this week will be Friday’s 1,600, where his season-best of 4:30.49 is almost 8 seconds ahead of Caleb Bonner of Shoreline Christian.
Saturday promises to be tougher, as Bonner is only three-hundredths of a second off Marchant’s season-best 800 of 2:04.22. After a brief rest, Marchant will race the 3,200.
No matter the placing, “I’m just thankful to be able to compete,” Marchant said.
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