For the first time in a decade, a new school will have its name etched into the Greater Spokane League boys cross country trophy.
Central Valley was selected to finish first – over the likes of North Central, Spokane’s recent dynasty – and the Bears answered those preseason predictions by winning the league title for the first time in school history.
The league title was won through a team effort, but head coach Kieran Mahoney singled out junior Evan Peters as the runner who took the biggest steps forward.
Peters has the most-improved 5,000-meter time from 2016 among CV’s varsity runners, shaving more than 31 seconds off his best finish.
“He trained his butt off all summer and came into the season with the mindset that he is going to race with (top CV runners) Gabe (Romney) and Ryan (Kline), and now Evan has done that,” Mahoney said. “It has been a 1-2-3 punch that we have never had.”
Peters had his competitive edge tested on Oct. 4, two days after tragedy struck the hearts of the Bears’ cross country team.
Patricia Mahoney, coach Mahoney’s mother, was killed in a car crash in Coeur d’Alene on Oct. 2. It rocked every member of the CV family and sent reverberations across the tight-knit cross country community.
“The only thing that is keeping me together right now is my cross country boys and their parents,” Mahoney said. “It’s my family and it’s a powerful family to have.”
“That hit us really hard and shot us in the chest,” Peters said.
Even a school 217 miles away – Eisenhower High in Yakima – sent condolences with a card, signed by every member of its cross country team.
“Two days later, we had to race against Lewis and Clark,” Mahoney said. “But I said to Gabe and Evan, ‘I am still having a tough time with this, as is Sheamus (his son and runner for CV).’ ”
With Kline and Romney figuring to finish first and second, it was up to Peters to grab the third spot and to put CV in control of the GSL.
“And Evan said, ‘Coach, I am going to do it,’ ” Mahoney said.
Peters ran 15 minutes, 41:30 seconds at Mead High School, a personal record.
“He had to beat LC’s No. 1 runner (Wil Smith), who is a fabulous kid,” Mahoney said. “It was just an epic race, beautiful. It came down to the last 10 meters and Evan raced out of his mind. He made that gap with Gabe and Ryan and we went 1-2-3 and that helped us secure our (first) Greater Spokane League title.”
Less than 1 second separated Peters and Smith, but that one moment of separation will last a lifetime for Mahoney and the Bears.
Peters’ singular focus on cross country wasn’t part of his original high school blueprint. That changed because of camaraderie and some success during his freshman year.
“My plan in freshman year was to do cross country, baseball and basketball,” Peters said. “When I got to cross country, I realized how good of a freshman team we truly had. … And I was like, ‘This is something I have to do. I have to stick with my brothers and what they love to do.’ I really just had a great bond with them and I just wanted to stick with that.”
Mahoney saw a special athlete who didn’t have the stereotypical runner’s body.
“He’s nothing special (athletically),” Mahoney said. “He’s a kid who was a baseball player. He doesn’t really look like the skinny little runner. But he is a fierce competitor.”
With the league season in the rear view mirror, the focus shifts to Saturday when the Bears will attempt to advance to state.
The District 8 4A/3A meet, featuring the GSL and Mid-Columbia Conference, will be held at Wandermere Golf Course.
From the combined 18 teams, the top three teams and 21 individuals will advance to state.
“It has just been a season of the team,” Mahoney said. “We are just a close-knit group. We know we have a target on or back, but we just stick to our game plan.”
The 24th-ranked team in the country (according to Runnerspace.com) will battle it out against 29th-ranked Lewis and Clark and North Central, the other top teams in the GSL.
Undefeated Kamiakin, Southridge and Richland top the eight-team MCC vying for state berths.
“I am ready to blow anyone’s doors off who stands in our way,” Peters said.
District 8 4A/3A girls
The same three GSL schools led the pack among girls. North Central won the GSL title, followed by LC and CV.
They too are jockeying for three team and 21 individual bids to state.
Kamiakin and Hanford led the MCC with 13-1 records, followed by Richland (12-2).
The state meet is Nov. 4 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.