Two vastly different district cross country races will be run today.
The CBBN 4A meet at Yakima's Franklin Park is practically a stroll, with every team moving right on through to regionals next weekend in Wenatchee.
Meanwhile, at Leslie Groves Park in Richland, racers will be running for their postseason lives at the 3A meet, with only the top four (out of eight) teams plus the top 14 runners not on qualifying teams moving on.
Both events begin at 4 p.m. with the girls race and the boys race to follow.
The CBBN has eight 3A teams compared to the Greater Spokane League's four, and the Big Nine wanted to keep its 2-to-1 ratio at regionals. Only the top two Spokane teams plus seven individuals advance, which means at least two boys teams ranked in the top five won't reach regionals.
The 4As are almost even -- seven CBBN, six GSL -- so there was no need to pare down the field.
The 3A district figures to be another showcase for Kamiakin, which swept the boys and girls regular-season titles with undefeated seasons. Kamiakin's Anthony Armstrong and Hanford's Erin Hegarty, who is vying for her third straight district crown, are the favorites.
The real drama will come down to that fourth team berth. Kamiakin, Hanford and Southridge are near locks on the boys side; Kamiakin, Southridge and Eastmont on the girls.
The Hanford and West Valley girls will be in a fight for the final spot, while Kennewick, Sunnyside, Eastmont or West Valley could jump up in the boys race.
"It's going to be very interesting," said Falcons girls coach Sean Mars, whose team has been part of all-comers regional meets the last two years when there were only three 3A teams in the league. "You feel like if you get that fourth spot, you earned it."
Though 4A regional berths aren't on the line, there still will be some hard running at Franklin Park.
"We'll try to run for hardware," said Richland coach Jay Bartlett, whose Bombers have won the last four district titles but will be hard pressed to chase down second-ranked Eisenhower. Ike's title in 2005 preceded Richland's run.
The Bombers will benefit from the return of Emily Hazen from a groin injury. The senior's first race was a JV league meet last week (she won by more than a minute). Walla Walla's Aaron Smith and Wenatchee's Jacob Smith will be among the boys front runners, while Richland's Katie Mahoney and Maggie Jones, Ike's Berenice Penaloza and Mayra Chavez and Walla Walla's Rachel Nelson are favorites in the girls race.
The top-ranked Ike boys are favored to win their fifth straight district title and 13th in 15 seasons. Kamiakin was the last team to disrupt the string in 2005.
Wenatchee's Walla Walla Point Park has been the traditional site for the 4A district race, preferred because of its flat course that doesn't overly challenge runners.
However, with regionals there next weekend, the race was shipped to Yakima.