In a sense, little will be on the line except for toes when the Mid-Columbia Conference’s cross country runners line up for the start of the MCC district meets today at Leslie Groves Park in Richland.
Thanks to the near 50-50 split of Mid-Col and Greater Spokane League teams in both Class 3A and 4A, next weekend’s regionals at Carmichael Middle School in Richland will be an all-comers event, so everyone gets a stay from the postseason elimination ax until then.
But the little four-team district meets -- 28-runner fields for a 3A or 4A district race might be record-small -- could give an up-and-comer some nice momentum entering the deeper waters of regionals. And even a tried-and-true program doesn’t mind adding a little district hardware to the trophy case.
One coach in particular falls on both sides of that equation.
“Our goal is to win the meet,” Richland boys and girls coach Jay Bartlett said. “We talked to the boys from Day One about having a district title to add to the mantle. We’re still really young, and that would be a feather in their cap.”
The Bombers went 12-2 in the two Mid-Col regular-season meets, tops among 4A teams and trailing only 3A power Kamiakin.
Michael Williams won both races, and the Richland junior figures to be a 10- to 14-second favorite over Walla Walla senior Sean Newcomb. The Blue Devils also pose the biggest challenge to the Bombers in the team race.
The same two teams figure to battle on the 4A girls side, though it is an entirely different race.
The Richland girls also are young, but they had their coming-out party last year when they just missed qualifying for state as a team. After finishing third at Nike Pre-Nationals and a close second to top-ranked Camas at the Richland Invite this fall, the Bombers have climbed to second in the state rankings.
No. 1 runner Lindsey Bradley is one of the best in the state, and the rest of Richland’s top four -- Lauren Perry, Sidney Bullock and Kinzie Icayan -- would be a No. 1 for most teams. Of note: Wa-Hi senior Rachel Nelson will shoot for a fourth top-five district finish (she was the runner-up in 2009 and 2010, and fifth last year).
The 3A races figure to be three-peats for Kamiakin’s second-ranked boys and fourth-ranked girls. Both squads begin the postseason march in hopes of repeating as state trophy winners.
The individual winners likely will wear Braves colors as well: any one of the top four from the boys team, and Megan Beauchene on the girls side.
“You want the district trophy, but there’s not a lot of stress,” said Kamiakin boys coach Matt Rexus, adding that the real challenge for all the teams comes the next week, when the GSL talent hits town to split three 3A state berths and two 4A berths.
State is set for Nov. 3 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
w Kevin Anthony: 582-1403; email@example.com