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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Riverside’s Jamar Distel sets pace with second straight Highlander Invitational title

Riverside’s Jamar Distel won his second consecutive Highlander Invitational title on Saturday, September 11, 2021 at Shadle Park High School.  (Keenan Gray/For The Spokesman-Review)
By Keenan Gray For The Spokesman-Review

Jamar Distel began his senior season of cross country much like his sophomore year – winning his season debut at the Highlander Invite.

Clocking a day-best time of 12 minutes, 17.29 seconds for the 2½-mile course, the Riverside star won his second consecutive Highlander Invite title in the senior varsity race at Shadle Park High School on Saturday. Last year’s race was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

It was all Distel from the start. He clocked in at 4:35 for his first mile and gradually continued to build upon his lead on Mead’s Brycen Gardner and Lewis and Clark’s Brian Bowers.

“I was trying to maintain that pace, especially when I was running by myself,” Distel said.

“I want people to expect this season that my first miles are ran like that and hopefully continued on in the race.”

Distel entered this last cross country and track season with much to prove after a disappointing 12th-place finish at the 2019 State 1A meet.

Even during the condensed COVID seasons, Distel got plenty of opportunities to showcase his talents across the state, including in the virtual State 1A cross country championship, which he won in 15:12.3. He then ran in an elite 3,200-meter race in Olympia, placing eighth overall at 9:04.97.

Since those moments last spring, Distel has gained his confidence back and has made it a mission to be one of the best in Washington. Not just for small schools, but for the entire state.

“You don’t have to be a part of a big program to be the best,” Distel said. “I’m coming from a school not very many people have heard of, and I’m still able to run national-level times. It’s all about having passion and drive.”

Gardner was second behind Distel running 13:07.97, followed by Bowers at 13:13.97. Mead won the boys senior team title with five of its nine runners finishing within the top 10.

In the girls varsity race, Kennewick’s Macy Marquardt ran 14:17.02 to place first in a field featuring numerous former state participants from the 2019 meet.

Asotin’s Chloe Overberg joined Marquardt as the only other girl to run under 15 minutes in the invite, clocking 14:49.13 to finish as the runner-up. Mead’s Alanna Parker finished third at 15:11.86 and led the Panthers to the varsity team title.

LC’s Evan Bruce won the junior race in 13:07.74 and teammate Charles Ledwith was second, running 13:17.92. Lakeside’s Hayden Blank was third at 13:37.47.

St. George’s came away with three winners in the freshman and sophomore races. Hrair Garabedian won the freshman boys race in 14:15.55 and Josie McLaughling the freshman girls race in 16:40.41. Ben Morales ran a first-place time of 14:28.43 in the sophomore boys race.

“Knowing Hrair is extremely competitive and it wasn’t necessarily a surprise he won, but Josie winning by the big distance wasn’t a surprise either, because she’s a very good age-group competitor,” St. George’s head coach Rick Riley said.

The Dragons also took home the freshman boys team title with their four competitors all finishing in the top 15.

“The talent we have in our younger classes is incredible,” Riley said.

“A lot of the newcomers are not used to the kind of level of training we do, but they have been able to buy into it and have embraced the work.”