The Richland Invitational has been the scene of some incredible races over the years.
But the 40th edition of the elite race Saturday at Carmichael Middle School may be the most stacked it’s ever been.
The boys race alone features five of the top 10 teams in the Northwest as ranked by Dyestat.com. Of course, any field that begins with North Central, the top-ranked team in the nation, is pretty steep.
Add to that Henry Jackson of Mill Creek (No. 3 Northwest), Seattle Prep (4), Eisenhower (6) and Mead (7), and it’s a considerable list. The field includes nine teams that finished in the top 10 in the 3A or 4A state meets last year.
Top contenders for the individual title are Andrew Kimpel and Leon Dean of North Central, Andrew Gonzales of Southridge, Mitchell Briggs of Jackson, Scott Larson of Lake Stevens and Jordan Ringe of Hermiston.
Kimpel, Dean and Briggs all finished in the top seven last year, with Briggs (third) the top returner.
While the distaff race doesn’t have quite the national prominence as the boys, the girls have plenty of top talent, led by host Richland, which doesn’t have a frontrunner but should have one of the shortest spreads 1-through-8 in the field.
The Bombers are ranked second in the Northwest and in the 4A state polls. Seattle Prep (No. 2 3A, No. 4 Northwest), Hanford (No. 7 3A), Davis (No. 9 4A) and Snohomish (No. 10 4A) are the other ranked teams, and the field includes eight teams that finished in the top 10 in the 3A or 4A state meets last year.
With two-time Richland Invite champ Andrea Nelson and Mead’s Baylee Mires not running — the schools aren’t entering girls squads — the individual race may come down to Davis’ Sandra Martinez holding off the rest of the pack.
Challengers should include Hanford’s Erin Hegarty (fourth last year and the top returner), Lake Stevens’ Lacey Wagner and Cia Bywater (brother Joey Bywater was a two-time winner) and Seattle Prep’s Carey Parker. Deer Park’s Jessica Duenich is the most likely small-school competitor to be among the leaders in either race.
The invite opens at 9:30 a.m. with the citizen’s race. The Division 2 boys and girls races (small-school varsity, large-school JV) are at 12:55 p.m. and 1:20. The Division 1 boys race is at 1:55, with the girls running at 2:20.