PASCO – No one has, in their right mind, thought Spokane-area high school runners have disappeared.
After all, Spokane schools have had 10 boys team titles, three girls team crowns, five individual boys champs, and three more individual girls champions over the past five years.
Still, it was understandable when Lewis and Clark boys coach Mike Lee said on Saturday, “It’s great to be back.”
Lee was referring to the Spokane region’s great performance at the state cross country championships at Sun Willows Golf Course.
Here’s Saturday’s roll call of champs:
4A boys – Lewis and Clark team, Central Valley junior Ryan Kline; 4A girls – LC team, LC senior Katie Thronson; 3A girls – North Central team, NC sophomore Erinn Hill; 1A boys – Medical Lake team; 1A girls – Colville team.
The one notable absence is the NC boys, who after an 11-year state championship team streak, finished third in the 3A race.
LC’s Lee said he knew it would be a close battle for the team title with Central Valley. But maybe he didn’t realize it would be 86-87.
“They got us in our dual meet,” Lee said. “We got them at Richland. It went back and forth. But we knew it was going to be our race.”
Lee said instead of worrying about what CV was doing, the Tigers worried about themselves.
“And we let the chips fall where they fall,” he said.
Will Smith led the Tigers with a sixth-place finish.
“We’re super excited,” Smith said. “I went out as fast as I could at the start, then hung with the pack.”
CV’s Kline had an incredible run. He was in 95th place after a mile. He was in 15th still at the 2-mile mark.
“Just go with the race plan,” Kline said. “It’s easy to go out fast here.”
So Kline held back until the right moment. With 600 yards to the finish, Kline began a tremendous surge to the front.
Camas’ David Maton had to dive at the finish line to try to beat Kline, but it didn’t work. Kline finished in 15:11.3.
The team loss to a Greater Spokane League rival wasn’t easy, especially when it was a one-point difference.
“It’s rough,” Kline said.
Thronson felt she needed to run a perfect race to beat two-time state champion Taylor Roe of Lake Stevens.
“And in my mind, I think I did it,” she said.
It began at the start.
“I’ve raced Taylor many times over the years,” Thronson said. “Usually, I let her go at the start. This time, I went with her.”
The two ran with each other for much of the race.
At about the 2.5-mile mark, Thronson made a break.
“I decided this wasn’t going to be a back-and-forth race,” Thronson said.
As she made the final descent down the last hill to the finish line, the crowd lining the course was stunned to see her in front. It started roaring.
“Oh, that was great,” Thronson said. “You can just feel the vibration in your chest when they roar like that.”
Thronson finished in 17:35. Roe was second at 17:37.6.
The Tigers’ team title was also huge. They beat Camas 74-83.
“We are just ecstatic,” LC coach Kevin Swaim said. “We’ve been talking about it for three years. The seed was planted, and we just kept talking about it.”
University’s Claire Dingus finished seventh.
In the team race, Kamiakin finished with 55 points, Interlake had 92, and NC was third with 97 points.
“(Kamiakin coach) Matt Rexus is a really good friend of mine,” NC coach Jon Knight said. “If I had to hand the trophy off to someone, I’m glad it was him.”
Knight was also proud of his team.
“Sometime this was going to happen,” Knight said. “Our guys handled themselves really well.”
Senior Markus Taylor led the Indians with a sixth-place finish, while Mohamed Ahmed was 10th.
Lincoln’s James Mwaura repeated as state champion, finishing with the day’s-best time of 14:48.3.
Hill, who finished fifth last year as a freshman, led from the 2-mile marker on and won in 17:55.3.
“I tried to stay relaxed throughout the race,” said Hill, who made her move for the title with 600 yards to go. “This is definitely awesome to come here with my teammates.”
As a team, NC scored 42 points, with three other runners in the top 10: Mia Hill, Marie Taylor, and Allie Janke. They finished sixth through eighth.
The victory was huge for the Indians.
“These girls knew they had a shot to win a state title after competing earlier this fall at the Bellevue Invite,” Indians coach Dempsey Ortega said. “When we scored it five deep, we won. I think they always believed they could win. They saw that as a positive sign. This has been the greatest moment and one of the best years ever in coaching for me.”
The title for Medical Lake is its third in recent years. The Cardinals also won in 2013 and 2014.
“We’ve been rated No. 1 in the coaches’ poll all year,” said Cardinals coach Gene Blankenship, whose team tallied 78 points. “But Meridian beat us down in Oregon this fall. Today, we ran our best race of the season. We had a 50-second spread between our 1 and 5 runners.”
Mason Williams (eighth) and Tyler Pena (ninth) earned top-10 finishes for Medical Lake.
College Place’s Kenneth Rooks won the race, his second title in three years. He had a time of 15:18.8.
Riverside’s Ben Shaw finished second in 15:35.7.
“I gave it everything I had out there,” Shaw said. “I can’t complain in that area. Rooks went out fast. My plan was to make some moves at 1 1/2 miles. But I had to play catchup and I couldn’t do it.”
Riverside also finished second as a team with 130 points.
Colville scored 114 points, beating runner-up La Center by three points.
“We were after the title,” said Alaina Stone, who led the Indians with an eighth-place finish. “We knew the first mile would be much tougher than the rest. We didn’t want to go out too fast. Then we wanted as few runners as possible between Morgan (Hall) and me.”
Hall placed 10th.
It was Colville’s first team title.
Riverside’s Lizzy Shaw finished third, while Deer Park’s Becky George was fifth.
Pullman’s Eliason Kabasenche finished eighth in boys 2A, and Cheney’s Bas Holland was 10th. Sehome won the team title with 94 points. Pullman was second at 107. … Sehome won the girls 2A team title with 101 points, while West Valley was second with 107. … Adna’s Austen Apperson won the 2B/1B boys title in 15:59. Tyler Shea of Northwest Christian in was second at 16:13.9. St. George’s placed third in the team race with 125 points. … Jora Gleason of St. George’s placed fifth among 2B/1B girls.