Lewis and Clark captured the State 4A title by one point, avenging its only loss in league by nipping No. 1-ranked Central Valley 86-87. Junior Will Smith finished sixth to lead LC, but then-sophomore No. 4 runner Patrick North ran a personal-best 15 minutes, 55.6 seconds to help eke out the win. Last year’s Nos. 2 and 3 runners graduated, but the team returns a solid group with a clear leader.
Central Valley sees girls track coach Geoff Arte take over a program hungry to claim a state title. Senior Ryan Kline is the returning state champion and the Bears lose only two runners from the squad that spent most of last season ranked No. 1 in the state and was undefeated in the GSL. Kline is “the most humble state champ you will ever meet,” Arte said. His goal is to stay healthy and develop his Nos. 6 and 7 runners to be close to his scorers by the end of the season.
Mead missed qualifying for last year’s State 4A championship meet by seven points last fall and the Panthers haven’t qualified to run at Sun Willows in 10 years. The team that finished third in the GSL 4A and fourth in the bi-district a year ago loses just one runner, with college prospects Daniel Jarvis and Cooper Osborn leading the pack.
Rogers coach Ken Bell calls his varsity the best group of runners the school has seen since the 1960s. The Pirates are led by junior Issak Chol, a refugee student from Sudan who ran a personal-best 9:51.34 over 3,200 meters in the spring. “He’s come out of nowhere to be one of the best high school runners in Spokane,” Bell said.
Mt. Spokane lost its two top runners from a year ago and begins the season with Scott Daratha, an assistant last year, as head coach. Daratha is no stranger to quality running. As head coach at Deer Park he won two State 1A titles with the Stags and was named the 2015 1A Coach of the Year. He’s no stranger to the district, helping Mead win seven state titles as an assistant coach under Pat Tyson. The Wildcats put in more training miles than any previous Mt. Spokane team and look to be more competitive than last year’s squad, which finished tied for seventh with U-Hi.
Ferris graduated three starters from last year’s varsity, but the Saxons have a strong returning group led by seniors Will Miller, Grant Starkey and Chad Caviness. “If we can get our top pack of runners to break up other schools, then we have a good chance to be competitive,” coach Chris Caviness said.
Gonzaga Prep Jonas Bears ran at state as a sophomore and inherits the mantle of No. 1 for a young group of Bullpups looking to be competitive.
North Central finished third in State 3A last year after finishing 7-2 in the GSL. Coach Jon Knight loses his two top runners, but the team’s strength is its depth and its ability to run as a tight pack. “It will help our competitiveness if we can get a front runner or two to emerge from our pack,” Knight said. “Nathan Carter (30th at state last year) has shown this potential.”
University returns Jacob Easton, who placed 15th at state last year as a sophomore.
North Central was undefeated in the GSL a year ago and won the State 3A title behind junior Erinn Hill, the individual state champ; Mia Hill, who placed sixth; Marie Taylor, who placed seventh, and Allie Janke, who placed eighth. “This group of athletes may only present itself once or twice in a coach’s career,” coach Dempsey Ortega said. “I am always impressed with their consistent work ethic and the desire to continually improve. Their primary strength is that they simply love to run.”
Lewis and Clark is the defending State 4A champion and four runners are back from last year’s squad, but it will be difficult to replace state champion Katie Thronson, who now runs for the University of Tennessee, and All-GSL first-teamer Abby Smith, who placed 14th at state and now runs for Seattle U. Naomi Butler and Gabi Davis placed 23rd and 29th, respectively, at state last year.
Central Valley was 7-2 in the GSL a year ago, and both of the teams that beat the Bears won state championships. Longtime CV coach Dennis McGuire retired and first-year coach Doug Pecha takes over the program. Olivia Sine placed 43rd as a sophomore last year and is the top returning runner. “CV girls will be competitive depending on how our new young girls compete as the season goes,” Pecha said. “We have talent, just need some experience.”
Gonzaga Prep was 6-3 in the GSL and placed ninth at state a year ago. Leah Carney, last year’s No. 1, placed 19th at state a year ago as a sophomore and is back to lead a group of four state veterans. The Bullpups must replace Natalie Schwartzenberger and Grace Moloney, both two-time state qualifiers. Freshman Nolani Krauss has that potential if she can adapt to the high school distance.
Mt. Spokane graduated 12 seniors from the program, so new faces are on tap. Sophomore Avery Tripp is back for her second season as the team’s No. 1 runner. Fellow sophomore Ella Richardson was consistently among the team’s top-three finishers last year.
Ferris finished 2-8 last year and has a seasoned group of veterans, led by Halle Caviness and Elsa Longhjurst.
University graduated its No. 1 runner from last year, Claire Dingus, who placed seventh at state, and state participant Rebecca Lehman, who finished 44th.