Perspiration glistened on the bodies of distance runners competing on a steamy 90-degree day Saturday at Shadle Park. But it was no sweat for Nick Hauger on his home course during the senior race that capped the Highlander Invitational cross country meet.
Hauger contented himself to lay back in the pack until the second half of the 2.5-mile race, when he surged to approach then-leader Michael Williams of Richland, drafted behind him, then cut inside on the turn and buried him on the final hill.
“My coach (Bruce Hafferkamp) told me to hold back and let the group take it where they wanted,” Hauger said. “I wanted to run a 5-minute pace, which I did, and have a negative (faster) second half.”
Approaching 50 years, the Highlander drew 942 finishers from 34 teams, large and small from Washington, Idaho and Oregon.
For the most part it was a Spokane day, with area runners winning five of seven races. Hauger’s time of 12:34.52 was fastest of the day, 27 seconds faster than eventual runner-up Peter Helman from Ferris.
Junior race winner Scott Kopczynski of East Valley wasn’t far behind, clocking 12:40.93, 13 seconds off the course record.
“I prefer running in the heat,” said Kopczynski, who finished 12th in State 2A last year. “I was hoping someone would go out with me. Nobody really wanted to go out so I decided to go for it.”
The top four finishers were from Spokane Valley schools, with Kopczynski’s teammate Chad Stevens taking second.
The girls varsity champion was Richland’s Lindsey Bradley in 14:10, 18 seconds off the meet record. The two-time state-placing junior finished nearly 30 seconds ahead of Lewis and Clark’s Gracie Ledwith.
“Obviously, it felt good,” Bradley said, crediting increased training for her victory. “You know it was really hot and you have to push your way past it.”
Showing depth akin to Mead’s back in the day, Central Valley convincingly won all four boys team classes. The Bears scored 28 points to Shadle’s 61 in the senior race; 31 to 60 over Medical Lake in juniors; 31-53 over Mead in the sophomore race and 17-74 over Richland among freshmen.
Will Medellin from Mead was sophomore race winner and Jack Ammon of Northwest Christian was freshman champion. Hannah Tomeo from North Central was freshman girls champion.