Andrew Walker admits he didn’t know much about his predecessor when he accepted the job.
“I didn’t know a whole lot about Dave McCarty before, but I have had the chance to meet him and talk with him,” the first-year boys cross country coach at East Valley said. “He has quite a history with this program, and I was surprised to see that he still holds the school record in the 3200.”
Walker, who talks as if he were on pace for a sub-four-minute mile, is excited to be part of the Greater Spokane cross country community – and considering his running pedigree, fits right into the areas mythos.
He has his Knights on a path that could lead them to the state Class 2A meet, a goal the team has come to embrace with fervor
“I think at the start of the year there was a lot of the usual rah-rah stuff about getting to state, but I don’t think they really believed it,” he said. “When we were able to beat Cheney and to run with Deer Park – they beat us by just one point – I think they started to realize that, hey, they can do this.”
As a prep runner, Walker placed fifth in the Metro League championships as a senior at Seattle Prep and was eighth in the KingCo District meet.
As a collegian, Walker ran for the godfather of Greater Spokane cross country: Pat Tyson.
“I came to Gonzaga just as Pat was getting the program started there, so it feels like I have a better understanding of what cross country is all about here,” he said.
There is a good reason why Spokane and the Greater Spokane League has dominated the sport for the past several decades, he observed.
“When I ran at Seattle Prep, we didn’t put that much emphasis on our dual meets – we treated them pretty much like just a training run,” he said. “The big push, the big emphasis was on the end-of-the-season meets, the league meet and the district meet.
“Over here, everyone took the dual meets seriously and you battled hard for every point every week. By the time they got to the end of the season, they were so much better at running those meets that they would just run away from us.”
Walker has his Knights running the same way – marking the runners they need to beat in order to win meets. In other words, running smart.
“My philosophy is that I don’t believe in talent,” he said. “You can be the most talented runner in the world, but you can’t do anything if you don’t put in the work. Our three-four-five guys have done a great job of pushing themselves and getting themselves in the right position to win meets. Our one and two runners are pretty much running away from people.”
Junior Scott Kopczynski has been clearly the Great Northern League’s top runner and teammate Chad Steven has been a solid No. 2. Walker said he can easily see a 1-2 finish for the pair the rest of the way.
“From what I’ve seen, Scott really had a breakout season last year,” Walker said. “He was good runner in middle school and he had a solid freshman year. But he really took it to the next level last year.
“The incredible thing about Scott is that he has amazing foot speed, but he doesn’t really use it. He likes to just go out strong and push himself the whole way. We’ve been working to get him to change that a little and take advantage of his speed a little more and he’s beginning to do that.”
Walker had the Knights in the Tri-Cities Saturday for the Richland Invite – an important meet for his young squad.
The coach called the huge invitational field an even bigger event than a state championship meet – running against some of top teams across all classifications.
Kopczynski topped his personal best time in the three-mile race, claiming a fifth-place finish in 15:11.52. Stevens also turned in a personal-best time, finishing in 15:41.16.
Deer Park placed eighth and East Valley 16th. West Valley placed 20th – the top three Class 2A teams in the field.