With one mighty kick, Kamiakin’s Anthony Armstrong quickly reminded everyone who the top distance runner in the state is.
The Braves senior looked like the Armstrong of old, as he blazed past Shadle Park’s Nathan Weitz to bring home the Class 3A 3,200-meters title Friday at Fran Rish Stadium in Richland.
“I don’t really care what people think or say,” Armstrong said. “If they want to talk bad they can. If they want to win, it’s not going to come easy — hopefully that’s the message I sent.”
He wasn’t the only Kamiakin athlete to send a message, as the 4x100-meter relay team won the regional title and will head to state a year after being disqualified for a uniform violation.
Armstrong, the defending state champion in the 3,200 and the 1,600, has been beset by illness this spring, leading some folks around the state to think he wouldn’t defend his crowns.
He quickly erased those doubts at the Eastern Washington Regional meet, staying on Weitz’s hip throughout the first seven laps before whipping past him with 300 meters left and kicking strong through the finish line to win in 9 minutes, 5.87 seconds. Weitz was second at 9:08.04.
“(Weitz) has a lot of speed compared to last year,” Armstrong said. “I knew he’d be fast with 800 to go, and I had to be ready to kick like I usually do.”
The race was run at a slower pace than Armstrong was expecting, which gave him more energy the final four laps.
And energy was important for the distance runner who had bronchitis early in the season and then a nasty case of allergies that he couldn’t kick, causing him to pull out mid-race at the elite Arcadia Invitational. He also finished a disappointing 12th in the mile at the Pasco Invite.
But he certainly looked healthy Friday, something that has to be disconcerting to the other distance runners in the state.
“My main goal was to mentally get out there and think positive and get used to racing competition again,” Armstrong said. “And to get back an old, but new me.
“It’s not where I wanted to be at the start of the season, but I’m fine with where I’m at.”
The sprint relay is also fine with where it is at.
Wearing matching red uniforms, with no white spandex to be seen, the Braves got a huge lift from anchor K Perrins, who came from behind to earn the regional title.
Perrins got the baton in third or fourth place, neck-and-neck with multiple teams. But the junior who got his relay disqualified a year ago for wearing a different color pair of spandex, flew by the field and won by .07 seconds.
“It’s definitely redemption,” he said. “Lots of pressure and coming from behind, it was twice the excitement.”
Kamiakin won with a time of 43.45, while Hanford was second at 43.52 and Eastmont third at 43.53.
The race was even more tense than usual, after a block slipped causing the false-start gun to go off. Leadoff runner Corey McLean thought he was out strong on the first attempt, but was tense on the second chance and didn’t run as well as he could have.
In the end, though, it didn’t matter.
“It feels good,” McLean said. “It was a lot closer than we wanted, but a win is a win and we are going to state.”