Ferris High School’s Amir Ado led the Division I boys 3-mile race of the 48th annual Max Jensen Richland Invitational for the first leg Saturday at Carmichael Middle School. But Jackson’s Matthew Watkins came out of nowhere to overtake him in the closing stages and cross the finish line first.
Richland sophomore Riley Moore was fourth, part of a strong day for Mid-Columbia runners. Hanford was second in the Division I girls team standings, and Kennewick sophomore Johan Correa won the Division II boys race.
Watkins set a blazing personal record of 14 minutes, 52.51 seconds — his previous best was 15:09 — to finish with a comfortable lead on Ado, who came in at 14:57.29.
“I kind of felt it separating,” Watkins said of the finish. “I felt (Ado) starting to go; I just kind of knew I needed to get up and start going. I needed to get up on my toes a bit and start putting it away. But this guy just kept staying with me for so long. It was just incredible.”
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Even though he didn’t land atop the podium, Ado was glad there was another runner who could push him and bring out his best.
“I’m really happy because I broke 15 because of (Watkins) — I wouldn’t have broken 15 without him,” said Ado, who took 17th in last year’s Class 4A state meet in Pasco.
Moore crossed the line with a season record of 15:10.4. Richland coach Jay Bartlett said he was pleased with how Moore stacked up against some of the region’s top runners.
“I think Riley had a good day — I mean, he got beat by three really, really good seniors,” Bartlett said. “The top end of that race is as good as you’re going to find just about anywhere, so it was a really good day for him.”
College Place junior Kenneth Rooks checked in with a PR and a top-10 finish, coming in with a 15:20.92 for the seventh-place ribbon.
In the Division I girls race, the Hanford Falcons kept together in a tight pack — at the first hill climb, their top five runners made up a long, purple line — and edged Deer Park by a point in the team standings to play spoiler with a second-place finish.
Hanford’s top finisher was senior Hailey Cleavenger, who came in 22nd with a 19:37.56. Their fifth runner — and final scorer — was freshman Aayiana Fuller, who PR’d with a 20:20.17 to take 35th in the 81-runner field.
“There were a couple moments in that race where the girls started to fall back, but then they saw each other and were able to pick it back up and get into those spots,” Hanford coach Sean Mars said. “That is rare, and we’re really fortunate. They obviously work hard together. And we’re really fortunate that our top gals are great leaders, and they don’t distance themselves in any way. You catch them talking to the JV kids about how the race is going and teaching them and all those kinds of things.”
But no team stood a chance against the girls from Lewis & Clark, who placed all five of their scorers in the top 20, highlighted by a second-place finish from Katie Thronson (17:45.13).
For the second year in a row, Moscow’s Katherine Ruck took the girls main event by storm. She clocked a PR of 17:35.11 — 42 seconds faster than her winning time last year — to earn the wire-to-wire victory going away from the pack.
“I thought (Thronson) was going to come with me a little longer, but I was just so grateful I had her to race while I did,” Ruck said. “But I’m definitely feeling confident going into districts and state the next couple weeks.”
Richland junior Katie Andrus was the Mid-Columbia’s top Division I girls finisher, placing eighth with a PR of 18:35.32.
Correa won the Division II boys race in 15:46.74, which was about 2:45 faster than the time he ran at last year’s Richland Invite.