Cross country: Locals ready for state

November 7, 2013 

It takes a lot of steps to cover a 5-kilometer cross country course like the one at Sun Willows Golf Course, site of Saturday’s state cross country meets for the 26th year in a row.

The question for the Kamiakin boys and girls, coming off runner-up finishes last year and ranked No. 2 in the state all season, is are they ready to take the next step.

“We’d love to take down a powerhouse,” said Kamiakin senior Garrett Kraal, who led the Braves with a fifth-place finish at regionals last weekend and placed 22nd at state last year. “That definitely would make it a great state meet.”

The powerhouse that Kraal is referring to is North Central, which has claimed the last seven Class 3A boys titles. The Indians won last weekend’s regional by a mere two points over Kamiakin.

This is the fifth consecutive trip to state for the Kamiakin boys, the last two resulting in team trophies. Along the way, they’ve gone from a near-miss program just to get to state to one that rates national recognition.

But always in front of them has been North Central.

“A team that’s been on top for as long as they have, you have to do something special to take it away,” said Braves boys coach Matt Rexus. “They’re not going to give it away. We’re happy to go against them all these years. They raise everybody up. ... You either raise yourself up or you’re never going to have a shot.”

The Braves girls are making their fourth consecutive state trip, with the previous three culminating in the hardware that comes for the top four finishers. Last year they finished well off the pace of a dominant Glacier Peak team. But this season the field is more balanced, with Kamiakin having as good a chance as anyone behind sophomore regional champion Kaylee Sanchez and senior Megan Beauchene, who finished fourth at state last year but is on the comeback from an energy-sapping illness.

Brittany Brooks was a freshman on that first team in 2010 and will line up at the state start line for a fourth time Saturday. Fellow senior Jori Perrins will make her third appearance.

Brooks and her teammates make no bones about what their goal is this year: top step on the podium.

“It has been our dream all season, it has been our goal,” Brooks said. “There are some powerful schools out there, but we know we’re in the running.”

Added Kamiakin girls coach Shaun Suss: “I’ll put it this way. I asked the girls, how did it feel to take second place last year. They said incredible. I said how would it feel to get second this year. They went, not the same.

“We’re happy if we get another trophy, that’s good. But we want to win one of these.”

This will be third state race for Kraal and Keegan McCormick. Kraal has run in the last two, McCormick competed as a freshman and sophomore before appendicitis ended his postseason early last year.

“It was all so overwhelming,” Kraal said of his first state experience. “You go in there with big eyes and big hopes, but you just have to focus down, keep close to your teammates and listen to them.”

Bomber build-up: While Kamiakin is well established on both the boys and girls side, the Richland boys are hoping that this year’s state berth to the Class 4A meet is a stepping stone for the team.

There was quite a celebration by the Bombers when they learned they finished second at regionals to earn the school’s first boys state berth since 1995, when their coach, Jay Bartlett, was a senior who helped Richland finish second and third back-to-back.

“It was pretty unbelievable,” said senior Dennis McDuffie, who missed most of the season with a stress fracture in his leg but came back in time to finish 24th at regionals as the Bombers edged both Gonzaga Prep and Ferris by just eight points for the second and final berth to state.

“It’s something that’s been in the back of our minds since the beginning of the season, but to actually go out and do it ...”

Senior Michael Williams won the race for the Bombers, and he didn’t mince any words about what he expects this weekend.

“My expectations are the same as at the beginning of the season,” he said. “Try to win state and score small points so we place as a team really high.”

Hanford’s secret weapon: The Hanford girls are back at state for the first time since 2008, and coach Sean Mars gave a lot of credit to senior Haley Porter for helping bring along the young team.

Another senior, state veteran Amy Pfaff, has been the team’s top runner all year. But Mars said Porter has gone out of her way to help kids like freshmen Rachel Schmidt and Hailey Cleavenger.

“She’s run for four years, and she’s just a leader,” Mars said. “She’s helped the young kids practice and learn how to race. She’s done a real impressive job.”

Locals to watch: On the girls side, Richland’s Lindsey Bradley is a top-three contender in the 4A race. She was on pace for a strong state showing last year before a bout of the flu made her gut out a 24th-place finish.

Walla Walla’s Courtney Cox finished 18th last year and could go top 10 as the Blue Devils make their first team showing since 1993.

Sanchez, who didn’t make the varsity seven as a freshman, is a top-10 contender in the 3A ranks for Kamiakin, and Beauchene is a wild card for other teams to be wary of as she continues to get stronger. Also, Southridge junior Emily Kump could be sniffing around that top 10 after finishing 21st last year, and Pfaff (37th last year) should make quite a jump.

On the boys side, Richland’s Williams should be top 10 in 4A after placing 70th as an individual competitor last season. Any number of Kamiakin boys could tear off a big performance: Kraal, Andrew Snyder and Cameron Glade among them.

In the 2B/1B ranks, Tri-Cities Prep will shoot for the school’s fourth straight title but will have its hands full with what figures to be at least a three-way shootout. Senior Kelly Smith finished fifth last year and 27th as a sophomore.

Royal’s Marcos Quiroz could make a splash in the 1A ranks after finishing 24th and 31st the last two seasons. It is the senior’s fourth state race.

Local qualifiers
Class 4A boys:
Richland (Brandon Crawford, jr.; Dennis McDuffie, sr.; Trevor Morrow, jr.; Chad Murphy, fr.; Max Podhaisky, jr.; Jacob Redden, sr.; Jonah Sandoval, so.; Eli Shelby, jr.; Michael Williams, sr.); Juan Cortez, sr., Walla Walla.

Class 4A girls: Walla Walla (Courtney Cox, jr.; Lea Davidson, sr.; Catherine Feistner, sr.; Hannah Hampson, sr.; Emily Leinweber, jr.; Erika Leinweber, fr.; Talyah Nelson, jr.; Alicia Ojeda, so.; Jenny Wall, sr.); Lindsey Bradley, jr., Richland; Sidney Bullock, jr., Richland

Class 3A boys: Kamiakin (Ben Brooks, jr.; Brent Christianson, sr.; Phillip Fishburn, so.; Cameron Glade, jr.; Garrett Kraal, sr.; Jonathan Lafferty, jr.; Keegan McCormick, sr.; Daniel Sanchez, sr.; Andrew Snyder, jr.).

Class 3A girls: Hanford (Hailey Cleavenger, fr.; Dina Gebretatios, so.; Carys Hunter, jr.; Charlotte Kiehne, jr.; Madisson Olds, sr.; Amy Pfaff, sr.; Haley Porter, sr.; Liliana Rasmussen, sr.; Rachel Schmidt, fr.); Kamiakin (Lindsey Barr, jr.; Megan Beauchene, sr.; Brittany Brooks, sr.; Alexia Estrada, jr.; Kathryn Fitzgerald, jr.; Lindsey Lowe, so.; Emily Moon, jr.; Jori Perrins, sr.; Kaylee Sanchez, so.); Brooke Hansen, fr., Southridge; Emily Kump, jr., Southridge.

Class 2A boys: none

Class 2A girls: Hana VerMulm, so., Prosser.

Class 1A boys: Royal (Cristian Garcia, so.; Victor Garcia, fr.; Carlos Hernandez, jr., Salvador Horta, so.; J.J. Jimenez, jr.; Riley Lefler, jr.; Clifford Lester, sr.; Nathan Perdue, sr.; Marcos Quiroz, sr.); Ramon Bravo, sr., Wahluke.

Class 1A girls: Royal (Brea Diaz, sr.; Caitlin Diaz, fr.; Sam Eilers, jr.; Maritza Garcia, sr.; Anahi Gomez, so.; Bianca Lopez, sr.; Meghan Mianecki, so.; Carina Moreno, sr.); Rachael Price, jr., Connell; Stephanie Juarez, so., Wahluke.

Class 2B/1B boys: Tri-Cities Prep (Phillip Geist, fr.; Joseph Ghirardo, sr.; Jorge Guajardo, sr.; Sam Lewis, so.; Sean McGrath, sr.; Isaac Nelson, so.; Cesar Robles, jr.; Matt Slahtasky, jr.; Kelly Smith, jr.); EJ Meserve, sr., Waitsburg-Prescott.

Class 2B/1B girls: Tri-Cities Prep (Adriana Bernal, so.; Isabella Ghirardo, fr.; Audrey Hermann, jr.; Laurel Hermann, fr.; Allison Jacobs, so.; Yvonne Lumetta, sr.; Ania McGrath, fr.; Victoria Nunez, sr.; Emma Slahtasky, fr.); Alexis Turner, fr., Liberty Christian; Heidi Hennings, jr., Lind-Ritzville; Emily Adams, fr., Waitsburg-Prescott.

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