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Preps notebook: Freshman faces an uphill battle for state

Shadle Park’s Nathan Weitz this year clocked the second- and third-fastest times for a freshman in Washington state track history for the 3,200 and 1,600 meters.

He ran 9 minutes, 23.44 seconds in the former during the Pasco Invitational, and last weekend during the 3A District timed 4:19.36 in the latter. Weitz ranks among the top eight this year in both categories, which would medal in the state meet.

The irony is, unless he meets state standards of 9:13 and/or 4:17 this weekend at Spokane Falls Community College, he likely won’t even qualify for Tacoma. He’s chasing North Central’s horde and Mt. Spokane’s Allan Schroeder.

“Unfortunately, he competes against the No. 1 (distance) team in the nation,” Highlanders distance coach Bob Isitt said, “and only two runners qualify to state. But he’s just a freshman.”

Weitz has enviable genetics. An uncle on his mother’s side, Isitt said, was an Oregon two-mile state champion. So, too, were his father, Lynn, who clocked 9:22 for the AA title in 1974 (and had a career best 9:18.8) and aunt Judy, in cross country in 1978, when they ran at West Valley. Two other aunts, Diane and Jan, were Eagles state placers. Jan and Judy ran on WV’s 1977 cross country team champions and Jan (Janke) coached North Central to a girls cross country title in 2001.

Lynn said last fall that his son, who attends Oaks Christian Academy, has already surpassed him. But there are similarities in stature and style.

Listing the names of recent Shadle distance greats he’s coached – Casey Perry, Michael Kiter and Rich Nelson – Isitt said, “those are some great runners. This kid looks like the most frail of all of them, yet when the gun goes off the guy just floats.”

Isitt didn’t want to risk injury and limited Weitz to the 1,600 early. His first 3,200 came at torrid Pasco. This weekend he doubled, but on separate days.

“You look at his calves and there is no calf,” Isitt said. “If he wants to get stronger, who knows what this guy can do.”

•During last week’s District 4A and 3A meets there were a total of 27 area bests out of 70 events, and six state leaders emerged.

Ferris runner Justin Zimmerman’s 1:51.69 800 was third-fastest ever by a Spokane runner and 21st in state history. Others were a 201-foot, 11-inch javelin throw by Mead’s Justin Graff and a 3:56.86 by the Panther girls 1,600 relay in 4A. Incidentally, Mead basketball star Jazmine Redmon ran on all three area-best girls relay wins and added the long jump title.

Mt. Spokane boys ran 3:22.84 in the 1,600 relay, NC’s Luke Evans threw the javelin 196-0 and Bo Schuetzle long jumped 22-6 for 3A state leads.

•Central Valley and Lewis and Clark boys 1,600 relay teams couldn’t determine second place and will run off for the final regional spot at 5 p.m. today at SFCC. The two teams finished in a rare dead heat behind Mead, timing identical 3:26.46s Friday during district that not even the finish line photo could separate.

•Region 1B (Districts 7-9) track is today at Whitworth, 10 a.m., followed by District 7 2B at 3 p.m. District 2A is at Eastern Washington University on Thursday and Friday, and 1A is Saturday in Tonasket.

Pitching revelation

What’s it like following in the legendary footsteps of Shadle’s Samantha Skillingstad?

“When I first started I was worried about it. It’s Sam, you know,” said Highlanders pitching heir Haylee Cushner. “I look up to her. When I’m on the mound I think about how she acted. I feel like I’m doing the best I can.”

Sophomore Cushner hurled the Highlanders (16-5) to their second straight District 8 title, this year in 3A, 2-1 over Mt. Spokane to qualify for regionals Saturday.

Then she revealed Friday that pitching is really only a sideline. She said she was more an infielder and hitter before reaching high school and still thinks she’s probably better suited there. Cushner hasn’t spent time with a coach. For that matter she pitched little until this year.

“I pitched a long time ago, when I was in 12-U and maybe pitched a game or two in 14-U,” she said. “There were always girls who were better.”

She mainly threw off-speed early this year, although with increased endurance her speed has improved. “I feel I could throw another game,” Cushner said following Friday’s title victory. She throws a drop ball and has gotten better working inside and out.

Cushner pitched a two-hitter against Mt. Spokane despite the fact she sliced the index finger on her pitching hand with a knife the day before. She bandaged it, but the bandage kept flying off so she wound up dabbing the cut with super glue between innings.

“Now that I know how I can do,” Cushner said of pitching, “I want to work on it more.”

Regional baseball

Lewis and Clark and University take the next steps today toward qualifying for State 4A. The District 8 champion Tigers (15-8) play Columbia Basin Big Nine No. 3 Kamiakin (14-10) at Hart Field today. The Titans (20-3) are at Southridge (19-5) in a game between the leagues’ No. 2 teams. Both are at 4 p.m.

LC, having its best season since 1986, swept three GSL district foes last week, allowing one run in 21 innings. League champion U-Hi lost 9-1 to the Tigers, but eliminated co-second place finishers Mead and Central Valley on successive days to advance.

Today’s winners meet in the State 4A tournament Saturday in Richland, hosted by the No. 1 seeded Bombers (20-2), who open against Kamiak (15-8) at 10 a.m.

•Freeman at 4 p.m. and Lakeside following are in Wenatchee against Chelan and Okanogan. The winners qualify for State 1A Saturday in Wenatchee and Moses Lake. State 2A (Pullman and Cheney) is at Davis of Yakima, 2B is at Shadle Park and Walla Walla and 1B qualifiers are at Avista Stadium and Eisenhower of Yakima.

State soccer

Mead plays Kamiak today at 5 p.m. at Albi Stadium and Lewis and Clark is at Pasco’s Edgar Brown Stadium at 6 for the first round of the State 4A tournament. Winners play in the quarterfinals Saturday. The GSL claimed two of the Eastern Region’s three state berths with wins over Davis and Kamiakin on Saturday.

•In 2A, District 7 champion Cheney hosts Ridgefield and runner-up Medical Lake is at Toppenish in 4 p.m. matches.