Jacob Dingfield took up distance running in the eighth grade, for the most pragmatic of reasons.
“It was either that or football,” said the Medical Lake sophomore, “and I was too small for football.”
Then he discovered “the feel of success that comes from it. I’m not exceptionally good, but I’m getting there, and it’s awesome to know you have the chance to be good at something.”
And on Saturday, there was validation – the Cardinals running through the State 1A/2B/1B track and field championships to the school’s first state title in the sport, and the other bookend to last fall’s cross country championship.
The little-school meet was driven by plenty of star power. Mega-champs Grant Marchant of Valley Christian and Macen McLean of Mansfield closed out remarkable careers in their usual style, and Northwest Christian freshman Jack Ammon launched what seems destined to be another. Lakeside’s Ryan Coffman and St. George’s Hunter Olsen built on Spokane’s distance running legacy. And Elma’s Ray Stark took care of family business.
But the Cardinals’ ensemble piece was every bit as compelling.
Dingfield and brother Micah delivered the clinching points for Medical Lake with a 3-6 finish behind Coffman in the 3,200 meters, each passing runners in the final two laps to produce a 50-48 edge over runner-up Zillah in the 1A boys standings. Pretty good for a team that was only third at its district meet.
“We’re not very deep,” said 71-year-old coach Gene Blankenship. “But we have good talent at the top.”
Still, the Cardinals managed just a single event win, although it was a big one. They edged Zillah and Freeman, both with faster qualifying times, in the 4x100-meter relay – a four-point flip – with Tellas Johnson overcoming a 5-meter gap on the anchor.
He also had runner-up finishes in the 100 and 200, and Dominic Rehm added another with a school record in the 800.
Zillah consoled itself with a 1A record of 3 minutes, 23.21 seconds in the 4x400 relay – one of three meet standards to fall Saturday. Waterville’s Robert Parcells took out the 1B 400 record with a 50.07 sprint, and Stark lowered the 1A 100 mark to 10.86 – though he was just as proud of his swift 37.90 victory in the 300 hurdles. That’s because brothers Joel and Christian were state champs in the event before him – only not as fast.
“I’ll only rub that in all the time,” he promised.
McLean completed a four-year sweep of the 1B jumps that don’t require a pole, highlighted by a clearance of 6 feet, 6 inches in the high jump. His 12 golds are one more than Marchant, who capped another distance triple with an anchor leg of the Panthers’ 4x400 relay – and got them within three points of the 1B team title won by Pomeroy.
Marchant also won the 800 in a school record 1:57.97.
Olsen won his first state title, breaking favorite Chandler Teigen in the 2B 3,200 with two laps to go.
Ammon won the 2B 400 in 49.75 – more than a second short of the meet record he was aiming for “but I have three more tries at it,” he said.
Raymond won the 2B boys title – its first state championship since 1969 – by a 55-47 count over Liberty Bell.
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