PASCO – Perhaps no other North Central boys cross country team had to live with as much pressure as the 2015 team.
Anyone remotely familiar with Washington high school cross country knew the outright record that the Indians pursued this year. They tied the mark of nine straight set by the Mead teams under former coach Pat Tyson last year.
A win Saturday would give the Indians the record by themselves.
North Central not only owned the moment, the Indians did so in flying colors.
“I feel like I’m standing on champions’ shoulders,” NC coach Jon Knight said. “I’ve known Pat since 1979. He’s like an older brother to me. My dad died in 1984 and Tracy Walters (former NC coach) is like a dad to me. And Len Long, my assistant for 20 years. I’m standing on their shoulders. I’m very proud of my kids.”
Leading the way for NC was runaway winner Justin Janke.
Janke, a senior, set a personal best, turning the 3.1-mile layout at Sun Willows Golf Course in 15 minutes, 2 seconds in the State 3A race.
NC finished with 75 points, outdistancing runner-up Kamiakin (121).
Janke broke away from a cluster a little more than a mile into the race.
It was his plan to make a surge and see if anyone would go with him. Nobody took on the challenge as he won by 16 seconds.
Teammate Sam Sjoberg had his best race of the season, finishing sixth (15:31). Hayden Dressel of Mt. Spokane (15:32) took seventh.
“There’s a hill after you come around the pinwheel loop and the plan was to work it really hard and see if I could get away, and if I could to see if I could maintain the pace,” Janke said. “Nobody went with me and that was a surprise, especially since some of these guys went out so smooth. I thought we were going to have a race.”
But if Janke proved anything this season, it is he was in a league of his own. His time was faster than any other time in any classification.
“I thought it was going to be nuts, going to be a race,” Janke said. “It was fast. They took the pace out hard. The pack was screaming.”
It was difficult, Janke said, to commit to trying to pull away after such a fast start.
“I just said that I need to go,” Janke said. “There’s this long straightaway in the back with a downhill and I just used that. I kept hearing people tell me I had a larger (lead). That was really helpful to know how close they were.”
Said Knight: “He’s a smart racer. He’s very patient and he’s in control. And he can think on his feet. You can go into a football game and play zone (pass defense) and you have to adjust. He’s good at adjusting.”
Janke said the pain afterward of giving his all was more noticeable than previous race this season.
“It hurts,” he said. “It really hurts but this is great. There’s nothing more elating than having a good race. This is absolutely amazing right now. I’m enjoying it.”
The talk was if there were a year to get NC this might have been the year – what with the pressure of trying to extend the streak to 10.
Janke shared the credit.
“Sam Sjoberg took sixth and that was incredible,” Janke said. “That means he raced the second half well. That’s an outstanding race.”
“It was a big day for Sam,” Knight said. “We’d been looking for a second man all year. He’ll really came through, a huge breakthrough for us.”
Tyson, now coaching at Gonzaga University, was at the state meets scouting. He hasn’t missed a state meet since he started coaching.
“Records are meant to be broken, right,” he said prior to the 3A final.
Janke, Sjoberg and Mica Jones were racing for a third straight year at state for NC.
The incredible thing is NC had to replace two runners from its usual lineup. Hank Knight and Ben Miller were nursing injuries.
Sophomore Markus Taylor and junior Ryan Frostad stepped up for NC. It was Frostad’s first varsity race of the year.
In the girls, Mt. Spokane senior Micaela Kostecka, fifth a year ago, had aspirations of winning. Instead she had the worse race of her season.
Kostecka took 17th (19:02) – about a minute slower than she anticipated running.
“I don’t know,” Kostecka said, searching for an answer to her disappointment. “I think I just started falling into some old ways. That’s where I’m going to leave it. It’s not the race I envisioned.”
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