Kamiakin dominated the Tri-City Herald’s All-Area cross country team this fall, with the Braves taking all of the major awards.
Senior Phillip Fishburn was named the boys MVP, while freshman McKinzi Teeples was the girls MVP.
Matt Rexus (boys) and Shaun Suss (girls) were the coaches of the year.
Fishburn led the Braves to a second-place team finish at the Class 3A state meet in November, as the senior placed fifth overall.
Rexus has watched Fishburn get better every year.
“Phillip was our 14th guy as a freshman,” said Rexus. “By the time he was a sophomore at state he was our No. 4 guy. He really hasn’t shown any signs of leveling off. In fact, Phillip is the third-fastest guy I’ve had here, behind Anthony Armstrong and Andrew Snyder. He makes me look good.”
But beyond that, Fishburn took the younger runners under his wing and helped them along. It’s why he loves running.
“We’ve got a culture on this team where we want to be as good as possible,” said Fishburn. “The running part is easy. I like the culture of running. You look at a typical runner, they’re a great person to be around. I like that hard work pays off. You put in the effort, and your time reflects that hard work.”
Fishburn was joined on the first team by teammate Travis Crumpler, Richland freshman Riley Moore and two state champions in small-school divisions: College Place’s Kenneth Rooks and Umatilla’s Fabian Cardenas.
The Braves finished second at state again as a team, and again losing to 10-time defending champion North Central.
“Probably all of those years getting second, I feel best about this second,” said Rexus. “We knew we were thin from experience. With the kids we lost to graduation, then losing Braxton (Gutierrez) to a broken foot. We were very happy (with second). This is the youngest team we’ve had in seven years. I am not disappointed by second place.”
Meanwhile, Teeples had the best finish at the 3A state meet among big-school runners. The ninth grader was 11th overall, helping Kamiakin place seventh as a team.
She and Braves teammate Lindsey Lowe were easily Kamiakin’s wicked 1-2 punch.
Teeples got the nod as MVP because she beat Lowe more times in their head-to-head races, and because the freshman ran so well at state, finishing in 18:53.8.
“I knew she was going to do well this season,” Suss said of Teeples. “I think she was a little better than I thought she’d be. Her breaking 19 minutes at state was impressive. She is everything we thought she’d be and more.”
Teeples, whose goal was to finish in the top 25 at state, said she learned a lot in her first high school season.
“I knew that I loved running and was real excited (for my first high school season),” said Teeples, whose father, Tyson, still holds the Idaho Class 3A 800 meters record. “But I didn’t know how I would do. Probably after the first few weeks of training, and the first meet, I realized that I could possibly do well. I have the best and most wonderful teammates I ever dreamed I could have. I learned tons this season.”
Teeples and Lowe led the girls first team, and were joined by Hanford’s Hailey Cleavenger, Walla Walla’s Erika Leinweber and Emily Adams of Waitsburg-Prescott.
For Suss, his Kamiakin team’s seasonlong performance filled him with pride.
“We had a couple of small injuries at the end that I didn’t like,” said Suss. “But this was one of the best teams we’ve had here. Timewise, this is very, very close to one of the best teams I’ve ever had.”
All-Area Cross Country
MVP Philip Fishburn, sr., Kamiakin; Fabian Cardenas, sr., Umatilla; Travis Crumpler, sr., Kamiakin; Riley Moore, fr., Richland; Kenneth Rooks, so., College Place.
Coach, Matt Rexus, Kamiakin.
Ryan Child, fr., Kamiakin; Jonah Franco, so., Kamiakin; Alex Iben, jr., Walla Walla; Porter McMichael, sr., Hanford; Jonah Sandoval, sr., Richland.
McKinzie Teeples (MVP), fr., Kamiakin; Emily Adams, jr., Waitsburg-Prescott; Hailey Cleavenger, jr., Hanford; Erika Leinweber, jr., Walla Walla; Lindsey Lowe, sr., Kamiakin.
Coach, Shaun Suss, Kamiakin.
Grace Arnold, fr., Hanford; Dallas Borrego, so., Sunnyside; Brooke Moon, jr., Kamiakin; Anna Ruthven, sr., DeSales; Mirannda Shulman, jr., Kamiakin.