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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Cross country notebook: Mead girls take third straight league title; young Lewis and Clark boys finish on top

By Greg Lee The Spokesman-Review

Three seniors on the Mead girls cross country team completed their final Greater Spokane League season undefeated Tuesday.

That’s exceptional in its own right. Even more spectacular, though, is the three have suffered just one loss in their careers, and that setback came as freshmen.

Three consecutive league titles for Charlotte Cullen, Raegan Borg and Elle Vanning – and a share of a fourth during the shortened COVID season.

Mead coach Dori Whitford, who has been the head coach since 2006, is usually a little reserved in her praise but is nothing short of proud of the trio.

“They have built on four years of really, really hard work,” Whitford said. “I’ve never seen a group work harder.”

Mead was seventh at the State 3A meet last year, three places out of standing on the awards podium. The Panthers will challenge for a top-four finish at state on Nov. 4.

Still, Whitford cautions about expectations.

“We don’t talk about that,” Whitford said. “We don’t focus on (finishing) top four because anything less will be seen as a fail.”

The three are charged with bringing a young group behind them along. Three freshmen, a sophomore and another senior balance out the team.

Whitford said the seniors have done an outstanding job leading the freshmen.

“They’re very loving and very inclusive,” Whitford said.

Whitford said the times of the freshmen are better than those of the seniors when they were freshmen.

“They’re highly motivated,” Whitford said of the freshmen.

Mead’s closest dual this fall was against Lewis and Clark. The Panthers prevailed 27-31. They clinched the outright title Tuesday, downing Mt. Spokane and University.

Tigers tops

Lewis and Clark boys coach Michael Lee didn’t see a league title in the forecast going into the season, especially considering the youth of his team and the fact it lacked a proven front-runner.

But the Tigers dethroned last year’s undefeated champs, Mt. Spokane, clinching the outright title Tuesday when they defeated North Central 25-34.

Earlier in the season, LC defeated Cheney, the team many picked to win the title, 27-28. The Tigers defeated Mt. Spokane 26-33 in another dual.

Mt. Spokane’s junior duo of Kade Brownell and Parker Westermann finished 1-2 against LC, but the Tigers pushed five runners across before Mt. Spokane got a third runner through.

“I thought this might be a rebuilding year,” Lee said. “Mt. Spokane throttled us at an early race. I thought we had a lot of work to do.”

But LC bounced back at the Farragut Invitational, taking second behind powerhouse Coeur d’Alene and beating Mt. Spokane, which placed fourth.

“At that point I thought, ‘Hey we could do something,’ ” Lee said.

His team concentrated on trying to run as a pack. Juniors Parker Whitmore and Toby Meier have headed up four juniors in the pack.

“It’s been a successful strategy,” Lee said.

LC’s pack finished in a 51-second span from first runner to fifth.

The Tigers’ junior varsity team also finished league undefeated. Four more juniors will make for a congested contest for varsity spots next year.

“This is a fun place to be a coach,” Lee said. “The hopper is full for a bit.”

State-qualifying meets

Washington athletes and teams compete at district meets next weekend.

In Idaho, the process begins Thursday for 5A, 4A and 3A teams at Farragut State Park north of Coeur d’Alene.

Judging by times on, Coeur d’Alene’s boys will likely post a perfect score (15), taking the top five places.

The Vikings could take the top seven spots.

The next-closest runner to CdA’s seventh runner is 12.3 seconds back.

Weekly rankings

Boys: 4A: Lewis and Clark (eighth). 3A: Cheney (sixth), North Central (seventh), Mt. Spokane (10th). 1A: Lakeside (fourth). 2B/1B: Chewelah (third), Garfield-Palouse (fifth), Davenport (eighth), St. George’s (ninth).

Girls: 3A: Mead (fourth), Ferris (seventh), Mt. Spokane (eighth). 2A: East Valley (sixth), West Valley (ninth). 1A: Lakeside (first), Medical Lake (fifth). 2B/1B: Garfield-Palouse (third), St. George’s (fifth). Davenport (sixth), Valley Christian (seventh), Northwest Christian (eighth), Chewelah (10th).