Here’s a conundrum.
How do you find that little extra motivation for a team heading out to defend its first state championship?
Central Valley boys cross country coach Kieran Mahoney hit on an idea.
Only one CV runner has ever won a state championship race, and it happened in 1966 – before there was a sanctioned state championship and the top teams gathered at Green Lake in Seattle for the University of Washington Invitational.
Peter Whitford covered the 2.3 mile course in 11 minutes, 3.2 seconds – 10 seconds faster than Lewis and Clark’s Tom Berkwist.
“I went back and found the school yearbook from that year,” Mahoney said. “And then I had new uniforms made up just like the ones they wore back then.”
Mahoney will officially unveil the throwback uniforms today, when the Bears’ junior varsity and freshmen run in their district championships at Mead. The varsity will unveil their retro togs next Saturday at Wandermere Golf Course at the 3A/4A Regional meet.
“I showed the guys in my room after school and they were really excited about wearing them,” Mahoney said. “They loved the idea.”
Mahoney is excited about getting his runners out on a golf course.
“We really haven’t run on a flat, fast course yet this year,” he explained. “We’ve run twice on our own course (at CV), but it’s not a fast course. We’ve run at Mead, we’ve run at Audubon Park and Manito Park. We’ve run at Liberty Lake.
“Our guys were looking at some of the numbers other teams have put up and were starting to get a little down on themselves. I told them not to worry about it. Your numbers will be there when you run on those kinds of courses.”
It’s different running a race when you’re the defending state champs, the coach admitted. It’s the difference between being the hunter and the hunted.
“It was interesting the first couple of races this season,” Mahoney said. “Teams were keying off of us. It’s always been us keying off of other teams. We had to get to a place where we were really confident in what we were running and not depend on how other teams were running.”
But in other ways – more important ways, the Bears are running much the way they did a year ago, when their strength was running as a tight pack and winning by getting their top five across the finish line faster than any other team.
Wednesday, in the final Greater Spokane League regular season meet, Bears finished third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth and 10th. More importantly, the time difference between Corey Hunter’s third-place finish time of 16:30.62 was only 27 seconds faster than Caleb Nicholls’s 10th place finish time. The top five finishers, who count toward the team score, were just 18 seconds apart.
Junior Briton Demars ran a strong race, staying with the top two finishers (Nicholas Hauger of Shadle Park and Peter Helman of Ferris) for most of the race.
“I really liked the risk that Briton took, going out and running with those two fast guys,” Mahoney said. “I think he kind of found himself in a situation he hasn’t been in before, running as part of the top three in a race.
“After the race he came over and told me ‘Coach, I think I may have talked myself out of it a little and slowed down in the second mile. I won’t let that happen again.’ That made me feel good – that he recognized it and is already making that mental change. When you take a risk like that, close the door behind you and don’t go back. Go for it.”
These final few races of the season will be fun, the coach said.
Top-ranked Gig Harbor, which had two outstanding runners move into its school district over the summer to make them an even better state challenger, and Eisenhower of Yakima figure to be the biggest obstacles to a repeat title.
“I told the guys that they’ve already put in the hard work,” he said. “They did their running in the summer, they’ve done their morning runs. They’ve done everything they need to do to have a successful end of the season.
“We can’t control what other teams do. We can only control what we do. And I think we’re ready to go out and have some good, fast races.”