Tri-Cities Prep boys notch third consecutive state cross country title

November 3, 2012 

It took seven years for Tri-Cities Prep to build its running program into one of the best small-school cross country teams in the state.

It took about 1 mile Saturday afternoon for the Jaguars to demonstrate they were all business.

Skyler Larson capped his senior season with a third-place individual finish, Kelly Smith finished fifth, and their TC Prep teammates cruised home for their third consecutive 2B/1B boys state title at Sun Willows Golf Course.

“I am very happy with my group of boys,” said coach Scott Larson, Skyler’s dad. “I takes a lot to surprise me, and they surprised me.”

Surprised not by the win, but by a 53-point performance in which three runners finished in the top 12 and all five scorers in the top 25.

Skyler Larson clocked in at 16 minutes, 25.5 seconds. It was 37 seconds off the winning pace of Onalaska’s Stephen Bottoms, who placed fourth in the 1A race last season.

Smith finished two spots behind Larson (16:55.1) after placing 10th at regionals last week. Sam Leon (17:18.3) was 12th, just ahead of John Hylden (16th, 17:26.4).

“It’s such a great feeling to go through the chute, turn around and see all the white jerseys,” Smith said. “It was a great finish, a great team.”

Larson, Smith and Leon all were in the top 10 after the first mile, Larson sitting in second place after the field went out fast.

“I started out not planning to go out that fast,” Larson said, adding he knew Bottoms would go out big. “But then Seth (Deal) went out fast, and I was not going to let my confidence get lost in the first mile.”

Deal, the senior from Waitsburg-Prescott who finished 13th, has been one of Larson’s gauges this season. But on this day, anyone not wearing TC Prep colors was going to spark a reaction.

“We were talking before the race, if anyone is around you, each point matters,” Larson said, “and we have to dig deep to get that.”

The Jaguars finished 19 points ahead of Northwest Christian of Colbert, whom they beat twice during the season. Onalaska and Asotin were a distant third-fourth.

Hylden’s 16th included a late pass of NWC’s Brian Henry in a critical fight for team points.

“Earlier in the race, he passed me. I thought to myself, don’t let him get away,” said Hylden, whose wrists and hands were adorned with writing: “Leave no doubt” and “Last one.”

It helped, he added, that his coach shouted at him, “Five more places to podium!” Finishing in the top 16 and getting a state medal was his individual goal.

“I managed to get it,” he said. “I was so glad I was within spitting distance, and that was huge motivation for me.”

Joseph Ghirardo (25th) rounded out Prep’s scorers, though 6-7 runners Will Bryan (34th) and Jorge Guajardo (43rd) finished strong.

Waitsburg-Prescott finished ninth in the team race. On the girls side, Victoria Nuñez finished 25th (21:59.3) for TC Prep.

In the 2A races, Prosser’s Bradley Buttars finished 38th (16:44.8) on the boys side, while Mustangs Kolby Childers (57th, 20:45.8) and Hana VerMulm (114th, 22:28.9) never escaped the pack in the girls field.

In 1A boys, Royal finished 10th, led by Marcos Quiroz (24th, 17:07.4). On the girls side, Connell’s Alanta Keskitalo (64th, 21:28.2) was the top area finisher.

w Kevin Anthony: 582-1403; kanthony@tricityherald.com

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