RICHLAND — When Erin Hegarty crossed the finish line in fourth place at the 3A state meet 11 days ago -- zipping around the Sun Willows course in a personal best 18 minutes, 15 seconds -- it marked a big finish to a record-setting four-year run for the Hanford senior.
"I still remember my first race, really being afraid I was going to go out way too fast and then die," she recalled. "It's been a really fun four years."
Three of those four years finished with Hegarty being named the Tri-City Herald's All-Area female runner of the year.
"I liked the way this year went," said Hegarty, who is mulling over her college choices, among them Baylor, Oregon State and Lipscomb (Tenn.). "I was real fortunate that mine ended so well."
Kamiakin junior Anthony Armstrong joins Hegarty as a back-to-back runner of the year. Armstrong helped the Braves finish fifth at state, the best showing in team history, and finished third individually in 15:24.4.
"I really feel good about the season, individually and as a team," said Armstrong, who won seven races, placed third at SunFair and last weekend took fourth at the Nike Cross Northwest Regionals to qualify for nationals.
"I hit some PRs and goals I wanted to besides standing on the podium as a team."
Among the highlights for Armstrong were setting a course and meet record at the Richland Invite and posting one of the fastest times ever at Spokane Audubon Park, a course trod by some of the best runners ever to come out of the state.
"I thought throughout the summer we were going to have a great season," he said. "The way everybody was practicing, running as a team, the team bonding, all the good times we had. I could see us doing better next year."
Kamiakin, which swept the boys and girls CBBN 3A titles, capped a strong season by placing eight runners on the boys or girls teams. Coach Shaun Suss was named girls coach of the year after his Braves took fourth at state, earning the program's second state trophy.
Joining Armstrong on the first team is junior teammate Austin Richards. The entire scoring five for the girls was honored, with senior Kaylee Brooks, junior Stephanie Rexus and sophomore Michelle Fletcher on the first team.
Hermiston, which won the Oregon 5A state title, placed four runners on the team, including junior Javier Velasco and sophomore Eduardo Juarez on the first team, and Jake Puzey is the boys coach of the year.
Also on the boys first team are Walla Walla senior Aaron Nelson, who finished second at SunFair and third at state, and junior JP Wolpert, as well as Royal senior Ethan Tonnemaker.
Richland seniors Katie Mahoney and Maggie Jones are on the girls first team, along with Wa-Hi sophomore Rachel Nelson, Aaron's sister.
Rachel Nelson also was on the team as a freshman and has a chance to be a four-time selection, as Hegarty is.
Hanford girls coach Sean Mars said that even though she broke onto the scene with a load of talent, Hegarty never shied away from work.
"She's a great, great human, and when you spend a lot of time with somebody, it sure is nice when it's somebody you can enjoy and that you respect," Mars said. "You see someone here who's been given some talent, and she's worked harder than anybody to develop that talent. And in sports, it's not always that way."
Hegarty already was the most decorated female runner in Hanford history last season. She finishes with three top-10 placings at state and three district titles, and was on two teams that qualified for state.
Being part of a team has always been a priority for Hegarty.
"I think each year had its highlights," she said. "This year at our district race it was really fun to watch our team finish. The other girls on the team ran really hard. I was inspired to watch how much they gave."
* Kevin Anthony: 509-582-1403; email@example.com
Runner of the year: Anthony Armstrong, jr., Kamiakin
Aaron Nelson, sr., Walla Walla
Javier Velasco, jr., Hermiston
Eduardo Jaurez, so., Hermiston
Austin Richards, jr., Kamiakin
JP Wolpert, jr., Kamiakin
Ethan Tonnemaker, sr., Royal
Coach of the year: Jake Puzey, Hermiston
Juan Delgado, sr., Hermiston
Andrew Valdez, sr., Hermiston
Seth Deal, so., Waitsburg-Prescott
Nick Lumetta, jr., Tri-Cities Prep
Erin Braich, jr., Hanford
Cayle Turpen, sr., Richland
Phil Snyder, jr., Kamiakin
Runner of the year: Erin Hegarty, sr., Hanford
Katie Mahoney, sr., Richland
Maggie Jones, sr., Richland
Michelle Fletcher, so., Kamiakin
Stephanie Rexus, jr., Kamiakin
Rachel Nelson, so., Walla Walla
Kaylee Brooks, sr., Kamiakin
Coach of the year: Shaun Suss, Kamiakin
Rachel Dahl, jr., Southridge
Katie Markwick, fr., Hermiston
Emily Butler, sr., Southridge
Sydney Blaser, jr.,Kamiakin
Brittany Brooks, fr., Kamiakin
Hannah Marsh, so., Moses Lake
Robyn Feil, sr., Southridge