The Cheney-Mt. Spokane boys cross country meet lived up to the preseason hype Wednesday afternoon.
Cheney was looking for its first win over Mt. Spokane, but the Wildcats’ one-two punch of Kade Brownell and Parker Westermann presented a road block.
Mt. Spokane posted 27 points on its 3.1-mile home course at Mountainside Middle School, edging the Blackhawks by two points.
Fourth-ranked Cheney and No. 10 Mt. Spokane were picked to finish one-two in league. There are still a few duals that could have an impact on crowing the league champ after the first run of Greater Spokane League openers Wednesday.
Brownell adhered to the prerace strategy designed by Mt. Spokane coach Scott Daratha. Normally aggressive in the first mile of a race, Brownell put the brakes on in hopes of helping pace the Wildcats’ middle runners.
Brownell finished in 16 minutes, 6.21 seconds. Westermann (16:07.85) was right on his teammate’s heels, and Cheney’s Calvin Hilton (16:14.76) was third.
Cheney pushed six runners across the finish before Mt. Spokane’s fifth runner, but the one-two finish by the Wildcats’ leaders was just enough to ward off the Blackhawks.
“I was supposed to take the (first) mile out slow to help the team pace,” Brownell said. “I don’t think it threw me off that much. It wasn’t my best race, but it was better for the team because it boosted our score.”
Daratha emphasized that dual meets aren’t designed for individual feats.
“This is a team competition; this isn’t about going out there and running fast,” Daratha said. “You can run fast other times. It’s a dual strategy for the team. Kade and Parker were supposed to help their teammates run better races. They did a nice job of doing it.”
Hilton was hopeful his team would win. He thought Mt. Spokane’s course served it well.
“It’s a tough course. It’s hard to know where you are (in the trees),” Hilton said. “They know the course, they know exactly where they’re going. I just tried to stay in it mentally. I wasn’t going to let them go. Then it got to the last 500 meters and I was pretty spent.”
Daratha tipped his hat to Cheney.
“We knew they were quality competition,” Daratha said. “On paper, they were the team to beat this year, but we also know that (Lewis and Clark and North Central) are better than they appeared to be, too. It’s going to be a good league season. We’re going to be challenged every week.”
Daratha said both teams will take a lot from the dual.
“We’ve got work to do,” Daratha said. “We’re not where we want to be.”
Cheney coach Derek Slaughter praised both teams.
“A lot of good efforts on both sides,” Slaughter said. “Parker and Kade are amazing runners, so they got the one-two on Calvin and our depth of two-three-four showed through. And every spot was contested until the end. It was probably one of the more competitive cross country races you could have had for a dual. Races like this are what sharpen you for the postseason.”