PASCO – Eight was enough for the North Central boys cross country team Saturday afternoon, but the Indians are far from done.
North Central extended its stranglehold on the State 3A meet, winning for an eighth straight time with familiar dominance.
And for just the third time in 50 years, NC had the individual champion. Junior Tanner Anderson turned the relatively flat Sun Willows Golf Course into a track, winning in a time of 14 minutes, 32.83 seconds and knocking off defending champ Joe Hardy of Seattle Prep (14:33.16) by the narrowest of margins.
At the regional meet at Wandemere a week ago, NC got a scare when Kamiakin finished just two points behind the Indians.
For a while Saturday, Kamiakin gave the Indians all they could handle. As runners reached the 2 1/2-mile mark, the teams’ fifth runners were stride for stride.
That’s when sophomore Justin Janke (15:33.95) found an extra gear, passing two Kamiakin runners and a teammate to finish 14th overall and fourth for NC.
NC senior Kai Wilmot took fourth (15:05.89), senior Oliver Reed (15:32.95) was 13th and junior Andrew Vandine (15:39.15) was 17th.
The Indians finished with 41 points and runner-up Kamiakin had 70. Mt. Spokane earned a trophy by taking fourth (119).
In the most competitive race in all classifications, Anderson built a big enough lead to hold off the charging Hardy.
The final 200 meters, a descending stretch to the finish line with a dip in the fairway, saw Hardy close within an arm’s length after trailing by 30 meters.
Anderson could hear the crowd urging on Hardy.
“I felt him the whole way,” Anderson said. “I wouldn’t say I was running afraid but I was definitely afraid he was going to catch me.
“I started my kick earlier than I normally would, trying to cover as much as I could. Coming in I heard someone yell ‘Joe, get him,’ and I looked back and saw him there. I just put everything I had into that last 40 meters and I barely, barely edged him out.”
The boys race wasn’t for the meek.
“It was very hard out there. It was pretty grueling for me,” Anderson said. “This is only the second time I’ve gotten out that fast. When I felt good that’s when I made my move and started to break away.”
Also in pursuit of Anderson were Mt. Spokane junior John Dressel (14:53.36), who took third, and Shadle Park senior Nick Hauger (15:10.21), who placed sixth.
Hauger finished fourth last year but improved his time by 18 seconds Saturday.
Winning doesn’t get old for NC coach Jon Knight, who has presided over the streak.
“It’s very gratifying,” Knight said. “It’s really cool (and) remember four of these guys weren’t on varsity last year.”
Knight was talking about Janke, Vandine, Sam Sjoberg and Mica Jones.
“Their string starts at one,” Knight said.
Knight had high praise for Vandine.
“Justin Janke and Oliver Reed had very good second halves, but Andrew Vandine was really the savior today,” Knight said. “He got (Kamiakin’s) fifth runner. Last week he got beat by their seventh runner. That was really the key.”
To Knight, Anderson’s win was nothing short of spectacular.
“Joe Hardy is one of the very, very best in the country,” Knight said. “For Tanner to come out here and hold him off, with Joe’s kick, that’s truly amazing. It’s very difficult to win an individual cross title.”
In the girls, Glacier Peak defended its state title, finishing with 102 points.
Mt. Spokane was the highest area placer at 10th. And the highest-placing individual was Shadle Park freshman Ashley Hauger, who was 20th.