PASCO – Even when a shoelace came undone during his race, Mead senior Andrew Gardner would not be denied.
“I would have run barefoot,” he said.
The shoe felt loose about a third into the race, but Gardner blew away the field anyway, winning the State 4A boys individual championship by 14 seconds, a finish that had just eluded him the previous two years.
“It’s not that that I (wasn’t) talented enough to do it,” Gardner said. “I just didn’t do (then) what I did today.”
Before, he laid back and played mental games with his foes, he said. It cost him. This time, he took the suspense out of it by charging to the front early and burying his challengers.
His winning time, 15 minutes and 2.3 seconds, was the day’s fastest. He was the only local individual winner, reinforcing – along with the team wins by Central Valley and North Central – that the Greater Spokane League is cross country’s premier league.
The storied rivalry between NC’s Katie Knight and Glacier Peak’s Amy-Eloise Neale will end this spring. Next fall, they’ll be teammates at the University of Washington.
Neale ended her high school cross country career with emphasis, her withering first mile ending any thought of Knight repeating as State 3A girls champion.
Knight was gracious in accepting her defeat, as she ran 17:44.7 to Neale’s 17:03.6.
“She really, really ran a smart, tough race,” Knight said. “I’m disappointed by how I raced, but it will only make me better the next five years.”
Neale, more a middle-distance than long-distance racer, has more foot speed than Knight and forced the pace to take advantage, running the first mile in 5:15.
“She dropped that first mile really fast and I couldn’t handle that pace,” Knight said. “It’s OK. I’m really proud of her.”