The Mid-Columbia was so deep with quality runners this fall, that Richland coach Jay Bartlett said any number of guys could have been named the Herald’s All-Area Cross-Country Runner of the Year and no one would have argued with the selection.
Richland junior Riley Moore is our choice this year, one which Bartlett heartily approved.
“Honestly, he is a kid who loves the sport more than any kid I have been around,” Bartlett said of his star runner. “He is very self-motivating. What I like about him, is the area is the best it has been since I have been here and he gets along with a lot of those guys. We have had top-end kids before, but not this deep. This many guys running this well makes everyone better.”
Moore is joined on the first team by Kamiakin’s Jonah Franco, Ryan Child and Porter Grigg; Kennewick’s Johan Correa; Hanford’s Caleb Olson; and Class 1A state champion Kenneth Rooks of College Place.
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Of the seven runners on the first team, two are seniors and five are juniors.
“This junior class has been good since they were freshman,” Bartlett said. “That is a great thing. That is a positive thing for our sport.”
And, all seven first-team runners, and second-team selection Stanford Smith of Kamiakin, were among 50 runners named to the All-State team by the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association.
Kamiakin’s Matt Rexus was named the All-Area boys coach of the year.
Kennewick sophomore Geraldin Correa was named the girls runner of the year.
“She (Correa) has continued to progress as a runner,” said Hanford coach Sean Mars, who was named the girls coach of the year. “You could see her confidence grow. There are some great runners in 3A and she is taking her place in that group. That North Central team is good, and for her to be able to run right there with them and be able to win it (regionals) is awesome. I don’t think she is done yet.”
Moore won the 4A MCC district meet and the 4A District 8 Championships with the Greater Spokane League. He then capped off a successful season with an eighth-place finish at the Class 4A state meet with a time of 15 minutes, 25.6 seconds — just 1.6 seconds off his season best.
“What makes it fun is the long training and the rewards that it leads to,” said Moore, who logged a 7-mile run in windy conditions Tuesday. “There is a point where you see improvement. It has its up and downs, but it gives excitement to my life.”
Moore credits his fellow MCC runners with helping him improve and get ready for state.
“To have good competition is definitely a big part of what helps me,” he said. “The guys on the West side don’t have that competition in their league meets or at regionals. I get challenged every time. I can’t sit back — there is no given race in this league.”
Child and Olson beat Moore this season, Correa is better in short distances on the track than Moore, and then there is Franco, who always has a strategy.
“Franco is composed and executes his race plan,” Moore said. “He is always right there. Even on a bad day, he is right there. Overall, it is a well-rounded group. Franco is my biggest matchup. Johan is a pretty hard worker. He is an up-and-coming scary guy. He is one of my good friends. We work well together in races.”
Olson was the only MCC runner in the top 15 of the 4A state race with Moore, but there were no surprises for Moore.
“I’m pretty familiar with those guys,” Moore said of the top runners in the field. “The week before, I beat (Central Valley’s Ryan) Kline at regionals, then he won state. If that race was done 10 more times, there would be different winners. State is like our league a little bit. On any given day, anyone could win it.”
Let’s Hear It For the girls
Correa may be just a sophomore, but she put together quite an impressive season.
She opened with a win at the Moses Lake Invitational, then was second at the Seaport Invite in Clarkston and third in the first MCC meet. From there, she won the Connell Invite, the Pasco Invite, and she was third — and the top Mid-Columbia runner — at the Max Jensen Richland Invitational.
Correa finished the season strong, winning districts and regionals before placing 12th at state in 18:30.4.
“This is a surprise,” Correa said of the honor. “I had some good races this year. I thought I would do good this year. You go to these races and there are good runners from Spokane.”
Like there was at state, where four North Central runners finished ahead of her.
“State was pretty hard,” Correa said. “It was so cold and my legs were numb. I was OK at the start, but after about 2 1/2 miles, I was so cold I couldn’t keep up with the main pack.”
Joining Correa on the first team are Katie Andrus of Richland; McKinzie Teeples, Hannah Paulson and Isabella Qunell of Kamiakin; Ella Nelson of Walla Walla; and Grace Arnold of Hanford.
“There are some really good runners in our league,” Correa said. “They make you better.”
Kennewick coach Katie Tate, who took the fall off after having a baby and had former coach Giana Marquardt fill in, said Correa is a treat to have on the team.
“She is pretty fun,” Tate said. “She has a good time with the other girls. We love having her out there. She is very serious on race day, but at practice, she is joking around. They (Geraldin and Johan) have a lot of natural talent. We don’t have to teach form, they just have the workouts to do. We had no idea they could run the way they do until they jumped into these meets.”
Correa and her brother Johan have made their mark in the MCC and little sister Sara, now at Park Middle School, will join them next year.
Running is a family trait with the Correas. Geraldin said both of her parents were the fastest track runners for their school in their native Colombia.
“Our parents are proud of us,” she said.
While Correa enjoys cross country, she said it helps her train for track, where she competes in the 400, 800 and 1,600.
Coaches Know a Thing or Two
Rexus took the Kamiakin boys to the promised land this year, winning the Class 3A state team title, while dethroning 11-time state champion North Central in the process.
I’m just supdr happy for the kids,” Rexus said. “We had six straight seconds or thirds. North Central has been super supportive. They told us that they knew the streak would come to an end, and when it did, they wanted to be by us. They were excited for us, which is humbling.”
The state title was was a long time coming for Rexus, who also learned he was named the 3A Boys State Coach of the Year by the Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association.
“That was a nice surprise,” he said. “I was definitely more happy for the boys. I have been doing this for 30 years. I don’t need anything for myself.”
Rexus, who also won the award in 2011, will accept this year’s honor in January.
During the regular season, the Braves swept the MCC meets, and won district and regional en route to state.
At state, Franco led the way with a fourth-place finish, followed by Child (5th), Grigg (12th), Stanford Smith (19th) and Andrew Holladay (31).
The Braves also were first at the Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, first at the 44th annual Sunfair Invitational in Yakima, and won the Bellevue Invitational in Issaquah.
“This is the first time we have gone undefeated from start to finish,” Rexus said. “All seven of the boys ran their lifetime bests on the same day at the state meet. It was a special day. ”
Rexus will return all but Franco next season, but he said the competition still will be tough.
“The top-end local kids this year were ridiculous,” he said. “One of the strongest fields we have ever had.”
Under Mars, the Hanford girls shared the league title with Kamiakin with a 13-1 record. They had some struggles early on, but righted the ship to have a successful season.
The Falcons were second at the MCC district meet, then placed third at the 4A District 8 Championships, just two points back of second-place Gonzaga Prep.
They finished the season 12th at state, with Arnold leading the way with a 32nd-place finish.
“This is not a team that has come together in one year,” Mars said. “It has been building over time. We had 42 girls this year, it was our largest team ever. The thing that is really cool, is the girls care about each other so much, and people want to be a part of that. The kids who are currently on the team, they watched the kids before them, and they want to be those kids. That builds something special.”
Hanford figures to be right back in the thick of things next year with Arnold returning, and a slew of freshmen who showed a lot of promise.
“The next couple of years will be a dog fight,” Mars said. “Richland and Kamiakin have some good freshman. We had 14 freshmen and we are excited about them.”
All-Area Cross-County Team
MVP: Riley Moore, jr., Richland
Coach: Matt Rexus, Kamiakin
First Team — Riley Moore, jr., Richland; Jonah Franco, sr., Kamiakin; Ryan Child, jr., Kamiakin, Johan Correa, jr., Kennewick; Kenneth Rooks, sr., College Place; Caleb Olson, jr., Hanford; Porter Grigg, jr., Kamiakin.
Second Team — Keanu Daos, sr., Southridge; Stanford Smith, so., Kamiakin; Ismael Castaneda, sr., Pasco; Anthony Stone, sr, Richland; Jesse Todd, sr., Richland; Nolan Chase, jr., Connell; Jacoby Wieber, so., Tri-Cities Prep.
MVP: Geraldin Correa, so., Kennewick
Coach: Sean Mars, Hanford
First Team — Geraldin Correa, so., Kennewick; Katie Andrus, sr., Richland; McKinzie Teeples, jr., Kamiakin; Hannah Paulson, fr., Kamiakin; Ella Nelson, fr., Walla Walla; Grace Arnold, jr., Hanford; Isabella Qunell, fr., Kamiakin.
Second Team — Celeste Davis, jr., Tri-Cities Prep; Kendra Keller, so., Hanford; Emma Summers, fr., Richland; Amanda Nygard, fr., Hermiston; Kathryn Bushman, jr., Richland; Chloe Scott, sr., Kamiakin; Kay Lester, sr., Royal.