It was by the skin of their teeth, but Deer Park’s boys cross country runners defeated Cheney for the District 7 2A championship Friday afternoon at Plantes Ferry Park.
This is the time of year when Jay Martin’s Blackhawks are usually at their best. Stags coach Scott Daratha recalled a season a year or two ago when his team beat Martin’s five of six times, the loss coming in district.
“Cheney has beaten us the last two years so there was no reason to expect there’d be no difference here,” said the coach of Deer Park’s regular-season GNL titlists. “They’re always tough.”
Both coaches held their breath until the 43-42 score was announced. Stags finished first, fourth, ninth, 14th and 15th. Cheney’s five scorers came in sixth, seventh, eighth, 10th and 13th.
“Those guys are strong,” Martin said. “Next week is going to be interesting.”
Both teams qualify for a quasi-regional that sends four teams and 20 runners to state.
Their reward is they alone get to race against the entire Central Washington Athletic Conference League schools at their district meet, although there isn’t that much disparity in the number of schools per league.
The GNL girls, by contrast, send two schools – Deer Park and Cheney – directly to state. The Stags won 48-55, also at Plantes Ferry, with East Valley just five points back.
Deer Park’s Daniel Amann, who’s made huge jumps in each of three state appearances, is a title threat after placing sixth last year.
“That’s what I’ve been working for all summer,” he said. “I feel like I’m going to have a chance and give it a fight for the win.”
Amann pulled away from EV sophomore Scott Kopczynski over the final 800 meters to win 16:44.2 to 16:59.5 on a warm, but blustery day. Until then, the pair ran shoulder-to-shoulder before Kopczynski came back to the pack.
“I just cruise along until it’s time to win a race,” Amann said. “All the credit to him. He’s just a sophomore but he went out and took a risk to see what he could do.”
Besides the two qualifying teams, Kopczynski, Colville’s Kevin Carpenter (third) and West Valley’s Skylar Ovnicek (fifth) will race next week for individual state berths.
Cheney’s Sanne Holland qualified for her fourth state meet, having placed fourth and third twice during the previous three.
EV freshman Brittany Aquino stayed with, and actually passed, Holland on a hill a little past a mile into the race. Holland pulled away in the final mile, timing 19:09.8 to 19:15.4.
Deer Park qualified for its sixth straight state meet under seventh-year coach Wes Player, who previously was a girls coach at Mead. No Stags runner placed higher than seventh, but Cassidy Krahn was the first of four finishers in a row. All six of the team’s competitors finished 15th or higher and none is a senior.
That pack mentality is what Player preached during a meeting earlier in the week.
“We’re a much better team this year,” he said. “The way we ran today it’s not a big jump to challenge for a trophy.”
West Valley’s McCall Skay, Clarkston’s Kari Scharnhorst and EV’s Alyssa Harmon are also bound for state.