Second-year Rogers coach Brent Palmer has had the chore of cultivating interest in a traditionally lean track and field program.
The Hillyard school has produced medal-winning athletes in recent years, but a lack of numbers has often kept the Pirates in or around the Greater Spokane League’s basement.
“There wasn’t even (an equipment) check-out for uniforms when I took the job,” said Palmer, a Rogers biology teacher who did most of his sprinting as a record-setting runner at Lake City High before a stint at Montana State-Northern in 2008.
Palmer, 29, aims to elevate the program, an admittedly tough task. Its pride and joy – the annual Mooberry Relays – is well-established, though.
The 56th edition of the Mooberry Relays – one of the area’s most popular prep track and field events – begins Saturday at 9 a.m. at Rogers High. Twenty-six boys and girls teams from the area are slated to compete.
“The Mooberry has a lot of history at Rogers, and that carries a lot of weight,” Palmer said of the meet that combines its boys and girls team for scoring. “It’s also a midseason refresh for the athletes, so it’s a good change of pace.”
The most competitive race may be the boys 400-meter run, which will feature three of state’s (all classifications) top-five runners in the event, per recent marks, including Mt. Spokane’s Spencer Barrera (49.77 seconds), Lewis and Clark’s Jake Hallesy (50.08) and Ferris’ Badradin Mohamed (50.28).
Here are a few of the top athletes expected to compete:
Cole Omlin, sophomore, Ferris, jumps: Omlin, the son of longtime area jumping coach Bob Omlin, cleared a career-high 6 feet, 7 inches in the high jump last week He also ranks first in all of Washington in the triple jump (47-4).
Spencer Barrera, senior, Mt. Spokane, sprints/jumps: Barrera, who signed a letter of intent with Idaho, placed at the State 3A meet last year in the 400 (49.14), long jump (22-1) and triple jump (45-5). He’s expected to compete for a state title in all three events next month.
Camden VerStrate, senior, Cheney, sprints: VerStrate, who plans to play football at Idaho in the fall, has established himself as one of the fastest boys in the region in his first high school track season. His best times in the 100 (10.90) and 200 (22.09) rank among the top six in all classifications.
Alec Kness, senior, North Central, distance: Ness has the best marks in the Spokane area in the 800 (1:56.90) and 1,600 (4:18.50), and is among the top six in all classifications.
Jacob McGourin, senior, Cheney, discus: McGourin, who will play football at Montana next season, recently had the best throw of his career (174-4) at the Arcadia Invitational in California, which is the third-best mark in Washington.
Allie Janke, sophomore, NC, distance: Among the nation’s top distance talents, Janke, the defending State 3A champion in the 1,600 and defending state cross country champion, has the top times in the state 1,600 (4:51.48) and 3,200 (10:20.60).
Faith Kennedy senior, Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls), sprints: Kennedy appears primed to not only defend her State 1A title in the 400, but also finish among the best in the state. Her personal best this season (59.36) ranks in the top 10. She was down to 57 seconds last year.
Kathleen Horn, senior, Gonzaga Prep, javelin: When Horn threw the javelin 137-7 at the State 4A meet last year, it was enough for a silver medal. She bested that mark (139-6) at the Pasco Invitational last weekend.
Kate Rhodes, senior, Mt. Spokane, jumps: The defending State 3A champion high jumper (5-4) hopes to repeat in a strong field.
Emily and Jordyn Hutchinson, Mead, throws: The shot-put sisters rank in the top 10 in all classifications after finishing 1-2 at the Pasco Invitational last week. Jordynn (40-10 3/4) beat Emily (40-5) by nearly 6 inches.
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