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Locally: Gonzaga’s Wil Smith finishes 11th in his first WCC cross country championships

UPDATED: Sun., Feb. 28, 2021

Wil Smith, formerly of Lewis and Clark High School, races during an Oct. 2018 GSL meet in Spokane.  (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
Wil Smith, formerly of Lewis and Clark High School, races during an Oct. 2018 GSL meet in Spokane. (Libby Kamrowski/The Spokesman-Review)
From staff and wire reports

It was just another walk in the park for Wil Smith.

Much as he did during a state-championship-capped high school career at Lewis and Clark, the Gonzaga freshman looked pretty much at home. Never mind the park was in North Las Vegas, Nevada. Never mind it was his first collegiate race. Never mind it was for the 2020 West Coast Conference championship.

Smith ran with the big boys, keeping pace with the WCC’s top veteran runners, including two teammates, and finished 11th with a time of 23 minutes, 46.7 seconds for 8K on the Craig Ranch Regional Park course, helping the Zags finish second to six-time champion BYU.

“I definitely surprised myself,” the 2019 Washington 4A champion said in a Gonzaga news release. “I went out and took a lot of risks. I was a little nervous being my first race, but I was confident going in.

“I know we’ve had guys working for this moment for a long time. I’m grateful for the guys that came before me and helped build the program. I’m excited to represent Gonzaga.”

Ahead of Smith were GU juniors James Mwaura, second in an 8K program-record 23:02.9, and Yacine Guermali, who ran the second-fastest time in school history, 23:07.5, good for fourth. Smith’s time ranks fifth on GU’s all-time list for the distance.

Gonzaga placed three runners in the top 11, but BYU, the reigning NCAA Division I champion, had six in scoring 25 points to GU’s 51. Cougars junior Conner Mantz took the individual title in 22:54.4.

GU’s five scoring runners were in the top 19 and all 10 were in the top 31: Peter Hogan, senior, 16th; Evan Bates, fr., 19th; Cullen McEacheran, jr., 22nd; Dominic Arce, jr., 25th; Kyle Radosevich, fr., 29th; Riley Moore, so., 30th; and Jake Perrin, sr., 31st.

BYU swept the team titles for a third straight year, with the Cougars’ women scoring 28 points to 49 for runner-up Portland, which had the individual champion in junior Anna Pataki.

Gonzaga, led by junior Kristen Garcia‘s 12th-place finish in 20.50.2, finished fourth. That’s the eighth fastest 6K time in school history. The Bulldogs placed six in the top 30: Lauren Haas, jr., 18th; Ally Legard, sr., 22nd; Liz Hogan, jr., 28th; Claire Manley, sr., 29th; and Claire Gillett, 30th.

Gonzaga director of cross country and track and field Pat Tyson was named WCC Men’s Coach of the Year, Mwaura and Guermali earned first-team all-conference honors, while Smith and women’s leader Garcia were second team.

“We’ve been frozen since November 2019,” Tyson said. “People could have given up and quit, but our guys didn’t. These guys are self-starters, and it makes a coach proud. … I’m so happy for our guys.”

The second-place team finish matches the program’s best, a top-two in 2004.

College scene

With swimmer Jamie Siegler leading the way, it was another banner week for Whitworth athletes when the Northwest Conference passed out weekly awards Feb. 14-21. The Pirates captured six of the 17 honors, including all three in football for a second straight week.

Siegler, a senior from Littleton, Colorado, highlighted her week in the pool by breaking NWC and Whitworth records in winning the 100-yard breaststroke in 1 minute, 2.87 seconds in the Pirates’ 148-141 season-ending dual-meet win at Whitman. Siegler, who owned the record (1:03.29) she broke, also won the 200 breast in 2:22.19, the second-best time of her career.

Football awards went to junior quarterback Jaedyn Prewitt (offensive), who was 18 of 28 passing for 207 yards and two touchdowns and ran for the first TD of his career in a 28-10 win at Puget Sound; junior Nate RaPue (special teams), who averaged 41.6 yards on five punts with three downed inside the 20 and was 4-for-4 on extra points; and senior linebacker Jaylen Gonzales (defensive), with a career-high 13 tackles and two pass breakups.

It was the second straight honor for Prewitt and RaPue.

Maddie Lee, a junior outside hitter from Mead, was the offensive choice as Whitworth added both volleyball awards. She totaled 48.5 points in a sweep of Pacific Lutheran with 4.33 kills per set in nine sets, 30 digs, five service aces and 4.5 blocks. Defensive honors went to middle blocker Kaity Barr (1.22 blocks per set, 16 kills, eight digs and five service aces).

• Saint Martin’s junior forward Claire Dingus (University HS) was named Great Northwest Athletic Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week for the third time in four weeks on Feb. 22.

Dingus posted back-to-back double-doubles in a weekend sweep of Northwest University, averaging 22.5 points and 12.5 rebounds with eight assists, seven steals and two blocks, while shooting 66.7% from the field and 50% on 3-pointers.

• For the second time this season, Idaho sophomore Beyonce Bea earned the Big Sky Conference Women’s Basketball Player of the Week honor on Feb. 22. She played 44 minutes and averaged 22 points and 11.5 rebounds in two wins over Portland State. Bea added 3.0 blocks, 3.0 assists and one steal per game while shooting 53% from the field.

• Washington State junior captain Mykiaa Minniss was named Pac-12 women’s soccer Defensive Player of the Week on Feb. 22 for her performance in the No. 15 Cougars’ 3-0 shutout of visiting Idaho three days earlier. Minniss led a defense that held the Vandals to five shots and scored the winning goal off a corner late in the first half. It’s her second career honor.

• Four players with area ties on the women’s team and three on the men’s team have helped Lewis-Clark State College teams qualify for NAIA national basketball tournaments with opening-round games in both tournaments March 12-13 in Lewiston.

On the women’s team are sophomores Sarah Muehlhausen (Lake City HS), Rachel Schroeder (Genesis Prep) and Hannah Broyles (Moscow HS) and junior Heidi Sellman (North Idaho College). The women have a No. 22 national ranking and 12-5 overall record after capturing the Cascade Collegiate Conference championship in the school’s first year in the conference.

The men (16-1) have been one of the top-ranked teams nationally all season and will take the No. 4 ranking into the tournament. Senior Trystan Bradley (Lewiston) has been the Warriors’ scoring leader (16.8), and Bradley and senior Jake Albright (Clarkston) share the rebounding lead (6.8). Sam Stockton (Gonzaga Prep) has been a freshman backup guard for the Warriors.

Marcus Lenker, a Saint Martin’s sophomore from University HS, was named to the GNAC Men’s Basketball All-Academic Team with a 3.54 GPA.

• After leading Eastern Washington in kills (41) and hitting .326 in two five-set volleyball wins over Montana, redshirt sophomore Maya McClellan was named Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Week on Feb. 23. It was the first weekly award of her career.

• Idaho grad student Sean Mullan was named Big Sky Conference co-Men’s Golfer of the Week after shooting a 5-over 215 to tie for fourth place in leading the Vandals to a third-place finish at The Joust at Goose Creek in Jurupa Valley, Calif., Feb. 22-23.

• Idaho senior Valeria Patino was named Big Sky Conference Women’s Golfer of the Week on Feb. 24 after shooting a 9-over 225 for 54 holes to finish 11th at the Gold Rush in Seal Beach, Calif.

• Three wins at the No. 1 spot, two in singles and one in doubles, in six matches earned Idaho freshman Francisco Bascon the Big Sky Conference Men’s Tennis Player of the Week award on Feb. 23.

He had a singles and doubles win against Gonzaga and a singles win over Seattle University, but lost both his matches against Washington.

• Washington State earned College Swimming & Diving Coaches Association of America Scholar All-America Team honors for a ninth straight semester under coach Matt Leach with a 3.61 GPA in fall 2020.

In the pool, the Cougars’ Chloe Larson highlighted an impressive senior night for WSU (13 wins in 14 races), breaking her own two-week-old Gibb Pool record in the 50-yard freestyle (22.59) by .11 seconds that improved her NCAA B qualifying time in a 162-98 victory over Idaho.

Rylee Brown, a junior from Coeur d’Alene HS, and Anika Grogan, a freshman from Lewiston, are members of Lewis-Clark State women’s relay teams that qualified for the NAIA Indoor Track & Field Championships this week in Yankton, South Dakota.

Brown is a member of the 10th-seeded 4x800 relay that has a best time of 9 minutes, 36.16 seconds. Grogan is on the 4x400 that’s seeded 14th with a best time of 3:59.65.

• A couple of juniors, pole vaulter Jacob Englar from men’s track and field and women’s basketball player Ula Motuga, have been named the Washington State Academic Services Student-Athletes of the Month for February.

Englar has a 3.92 grade-point average as a pre-med, psychology major and has been active in the community, volunteering at an assisted living facility for adults with mental disabilities who are trying to live independently. He also works in the exercise physiology and performance lab on the Iron Man Project and is a member of the Cougars’ student-athlete advisory committee.

Motuga has been busy on and off the court while maintaining a 3.63 GPA in her pursuit of a degree in sports management. She took on a leadership role in the SAAC as a freshman, which she has maintained, and has been active as a peer academic counselor. On the court, she has been a regular starter, averaging 9.7 points and 7.1 rebounds.

Letters of intent

Idaho women’s soccer: Tara Oper, F, Riverside, California; Katelyn Sok, F, Auburn, Washington (Thomas Jefferson HS).

Miscellany

Brad Corbin, who has spent nearly six years at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he ultimately served as associate athletics director for academics and compliance, has been hired by Washington State to guide the Cougars’ compliance office as associate director of athletics.

A graduate of the University of Louisville in 2008 with a degree in sports administration, Corbin earned a juris doctor degree from Louisville in 2012, where he worked as a compliance intern. Once he graduated, he accepted a position as director of compliance at Murray State, in Kentucky, where he spent more than three years before taking the job at Miami of Ohio.

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