High School Sports

Cross country: Tri-Cities Prep wins boys title; Kamiakin girls fourth

PASCO -- As expected, a pair of cross country teams from the Tri-Cities took the podium Saturday afternoon at Sun Willows Golf Course, soaking in the adulation from fans.

They were not, however, the pair that most would have thought.

The Kamiakin girls made good on season-long expectations, taking fourth in the 3A girls race to earn the program's second state trophy.

However, it was Tri-Cities Prep that provided the other big finish, winning the 2B/1B boys title.

"I won't say it's a surprise; it's a nice cap to our season," said first-year Jaguars coach Scott Larson. "Every meet we were competing and the times were getting better and better.

"I knew going in we were going to podium; I just didn't know where on the podium. But when I saw where we were at the first mile, I thought we had a good shot."

The Kamiakin boys also came in with expectations of earning the program's first state trophy, ranked third in the state all season. But the Braves had to settle for fifth, 30 points behind Bellevue for the final trophy spot.

"I think we came up a little short today," said Austin Richards, Kamiakin's No. 2 runner who finished 24th.

Junior Anthony Armstrong finished third for the Braves in 15 minutes, 25 seconds, but it was 13 seconds off the winning time of Shadle Park's Nathan Weitz and 4 seconds behind North Central's Vince Hamilton.

Armstrong beat both runners last Saturday at the regional meet and expected it to be a three-way race again, which it was for 2 miles until Weitz and Hamilton pulled ahead and Armstrong felt the effects of trying to fight off a cold.

"I tried to do everything I could this week not to get sick: NyQuil, DayQuil, anything," said Armstrong, who finished 19th last season. "I still feel good" about finishing third.

Hanford junior Erin Braich, a first-year runner, finished 37th.

Another Falcons runner concluded a decorated career as Erin Hegarty finished fourth in the 3A girls race in 18:15. It was the fourth top-15 showing for Hegarty, whose previous best at state were sixth in 18:56 two years ago.

"I'm pretty happy with it," she said. "Our plan was to go out more conservative in the first mile and then try to hunt some people down the rest of the way.

"Overall, it was a pretty good season. This is a good way to end it."

Likewise for the Kamiakin girls, who had hopes of matching the 2003 team's third-place showing but weren't too broken up over finishing fourth, nine points behind third-place Oak Harbor.

"It felt great," said sophomore Michelle Fletcher, who finished seventh in 18:49.8, one spot ahead of junior teammate Stephanie Rexus (18:52.2). "We were a little disappointed that we didn't place third like we hoped or even second. But we worked so hard for this, and to be able to stand up there with people cheering, it was such a Kodak moment."

It was a moment aided by another moment from the end of last season, when Fletcher and Rexus -- running without their teammates -- got buried on the start and wound up 61st and 73rd.

"The first time it was really overwhelming -- there are so many people," Rexus said. "One second will cost you 10 spots. It was a lot better this year. My goal was to be top 10, and I did that."

Senior teammate Kaylee Brooks finished 14th, five spots in front of Southridge junior Rachel Dahl. But the rest of the Kamiakin girls learned the hard way that lesson about not getting buried on the start.

Three more seniors ended their careers in the 4A races. First, Richland's Katie Mahoney (18:38.1) and Maggie Jones (18:56.5) finished 12th and 18th, sandwiched around Walla Walla sophomore Rachel Nelson (18:50.1) in 16th.

"I wanted top 10, but I did my best so I can't complain," Mahoney said.

Later, Aaron Nelson, Rachel's brother, gutted out a third-place finish, cutting 24 seconds off his 20th-place time from last season and almost running down Mead's Andrew Gardner for second.

"I went for the state championship," Nelson said. "No matter what, I didn't back down until I broke down. But I don't regret it. No regrets.

"There's a point where your arms are heavy and you feel like you don't have anything left, and that's when you've got to go. It's counterintuitive."

Wa-Hi junior JP Wolpert finished 13th in 15:54, a strong one-two showing for the Blue Devils.

Royal senior Ethan Tonnemaker finished eighth in the 1A boys race, his best showing in four trips to state that included a team title his freshman season.

"I'm going to miss this," he said.

Waitsburg-Prescott sophomore Seth Deal was fourth in the 1B/2B boys race, his 16:46.7 about 40 seconds off a tough pace set by the leaders.

"I thought at first I could hang on," Deal said. "But as they pulled away more and more, I had to focus on my own pace."

Deal was three spots ahead of Nick Lumetta, the first Tri-Cities Prep runner to cross the finish line. He was followed by Nick Tudor in 10th, and the rest of the Jaguars weren't far behind. Skyler Larson (21st), Nick Fong (23rd) and John Hylden (30th) gave Prep an unbeatable scoring five.

As Lumetta watched his teammates finish, he thought about winning the program's first state trophy.

"That would mean a lot to us," he said. "Our team has focused all year."

He had no idea at the time that trophy would be the big one.

"We've very excited about it," said Scott Larson, who will have all seven of his state runners back next season. "But we're kind of the ones who just go about our business."

* Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403; kanthony@tricityherald.com