Here is a conference-by-conference look at the 2012 cross country season for Mid-Columbia high schools: Mid-Columbia
A lot has changed, with just one combined league title for the 3A and 4A teams, though they will go their seperate ways come districts. Also, the 4A teams won't have Eisenhower looking over their shoulders -- a nice break after about three decades of Ike excellence.
But much more remains the same. The Kamiakin boys and girls are favored to trophy at the 3A state race, the Richland girls figure to be a factor in the 4A picture with Walla Walla right on their tail, and there is plenty more individual talent to keep an eye on around the league.
First off, the Kamiakin boys are back and might be even better than last year's third-place state team, despite the graduation of state champion Anthony Armstrong. This club looks deeper, with no dropoff among the top seven. Look for senior Austin Oser and junior Keegan McCormick to lead the way. The east side has two berths to state. However, with six-time state champ North Central and Kamiakin in the mix, state likely will be a closed course for the rest of the area. ... Walla Walla has a lot of spots to fill, but senior Sean Newcomb and junior Ben Wolpert are good starts. ... Senior Ryan Francis leads a Bombers squad that could surprise some teams. ... Hanford senior Jeevan Philip looks like he could be ready to make a big jump. Likewise for Southridge senior Brody Sams and Kennewick senior Joseph Schuldheisz.
On the girls side, a young Richland squad just missed going to state last year but looks strong to claim one of the two state berths to come out of the MCC-Greater Spokane regional. Lindsey Bradley finished third at regionals as a freshman and won last week's Highlander. She and junior Lauren Perry are state vets. ... Kamiakin's girls, like the boys, lost their No. 1 but look to be deeper, led by three-time state vet Michelle Fletcher and junior Megan Beauchene, a soccer convert who already is posting impressive finishes. ... Walla Walla has its own three-time state vet back in Rachel Nelson as well as four of its top five. ... Southridge missed going to state last year by a single point and should be better, led by sophomore state vet Emily Kump and senior Leslie Olsen, who finished one spot out of qualifying for state individually. ... Hanford will rely on a trio of regional veterans to set the pace, led by juniors Beverly McCarthy and Haley Porter.
Life for Prosser, Grandview and Othello didn't get any easier with West Valley dropping into the mix. Three-year state vet Kolby Childers finally is a senior for the Prosser girls, who had a strong sixth-place showing at Ellensburg last weekend with an infusion of freshmen talent. The Mustangs also have a state vet on the boys team: senior Bradley Buttars.
Royal looks strong on both sides, with a boys team that qualified for state without any seniors. Junior Marcos Quiroz could be due for some strong finishes. On the girls side, junior state vet Carina Moreno could be challenged for the No. 1 spot. ... Kiona-Benton's boys start fresh after graduating all three state runner. ... Connell junior Robert Orozco is another state veteran.
The Tri-Cities Prep boys return four of the seven runners who competed at state and two that ran on the last two state championship teams, and their fifth-place showing at Ellensburg last week is even better than they peformed last year. Senior Skyler Larson placed sixth at state last year and should compete for an individual title. Waitsburg-Prescott may not have the horses to compete team-for-team, but senior Seth "Real" Deal is a real deal to compete for state. ... The Prep girls qualified as a team for state last year for the first time, and this year they should compete for a team trophy ... provided they can get a team qualified out of district with some stiff competition coming from St. John-Endicott/LaCrosse-Washtucna among others. Junior Victoria Nunez placed 14th at state last year.