North Central boys cross country coach had an inkling Jacob Christner had front-of-the-pack potential.
Christner proved that and more Wednesday, leading the Indians to a key sweep in Greater Spokane League cross country action.
Now Christner wants more – much, much more.
Christner surged past Amir Ado of Ferris, winning in 15 minutes, 41 seconds at Audubon Park.
Just 11 days ago on the same course, Christner finished third at the Tracy Walters Invite in 16:09. By finishing 28 seconds faster Wednesday, he now has the third-best time all time among NC runners.
And that’s elite company. It puts Christner ahead of Justin Janke by 10 seconds. All Janke did last year was capture the State 3A championship.
The Indians topped Central Valley 17-41 and Ferris 20-43. NC took a big step toward a seventh consecutive league championship.
Christner finished 13 seconds behind Ado 11 days ago.
“It’s a combination of great coaches, lots and lots of hard work and great teammates and an awesome community to come here and support me,” Christner said. “We (Christner and Ado) both ran incredible races.”
On the second of three laps, Christner and Ado were side by side. It was at the start of the final downhill that Christner put in a surge that Ado had no answer for.
“My strategy in most races is waiting for the kick,” Christner said. “Coach always tells me to relax. So that whole race I ran through my head and (thought) ‘stay relaxed, stay relaxed, stay relaxed.’ I knew if I could stay on his hip until the last 600 meters I could get him.”
Christner’s effort wasn’t lost on himself.
“Personally it’s a huge step,” he said. “I’ve been working toward the No. 1 spot since my freshman year. It’s always been my goal.”
Christner stopped short of saying he’s in NC’s elite circle of runners.
“I don’t know if I’m quite there yet but that’s definitely what I’m striving for,” he said. “I want to be state champion this year.”
Knight said Christner’s development has clearly been seen in practices.
“It’s good. We need a star,” Knight said. “We’ve been looking for a star to replace Justin (Janke). I think Jacob just did it. It’s exciting for our team because you’ve got to have that low No. 1 score.”
Ado said he learned a lesson.
“Jacob did a great job,” Ado said. “The lesson is I went out way, way too hard.”
Also running well for NC were Markus Taylor (16:17) and Mohamed Ahmed (16:18). The top five Indians were 58 seconds apart.
In the girls race, the final results couldn’t have been closer. CV and NC, led by the freshmen Hill twins, finished with 28 points each but the Bears won based on their sixth runner finishing ahead of the Indians’ sixth runner.
CV also beat Ferris 15-46 and NC topped Ferris 15-43.
Erinn Hill finished first in a time of 18:52, pulling ahead of runner-up Kearan Nelson of CV (19:06) in the last quarter of the race. Hill’s sister, Mia, took third (19:34).
“The start was really slow,” Erinn said. “I kept (Nelson) in front of me so I could draft off her. It went really well.”
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