Six of a possible 10 state berths for District 8 4A/3A cross country were earned by Greater Spokane League schools on Saturday at Wandermere Golf Course.
Overall, 94 athletes are headed to Pasco next weekend from the district, including 54 from the GSL.
The first race of the afternoon concluded with the GSL’s first of three outright district team wins. North Central’s girls, the GSL champions, finished with 22 points after placing four runners in the top five: sophomore Erinn Hill (18 minutes, 49 seconds), sophomore Marie Taylor (18:54), freshman Allie Janke (18:55) and sophomore Mia Hil (19:14).
But it was senior Bethany Meek (19:32) who has impressed NC coach Dempsey Ortega the most.
“She is the captain and she has done a great job at closing the gap (between the top four and herself),” Ortega said. “At one point a couple weeks ago, she was a minute and a half behind these girls and now she’s 18 seconds (behind).”
Meek focused on hard work and one other important factor as she tried to gain ground on her teammates.
“Purely hard work and not running for ourselves, but for the team,” Meek said. “Everything we do is for the team.”
“The goal for the girls … it’s one goal,” Ortega said. “This summer they set a goal and we have a poster in our room where we have our meetings and it says state champions. It is just getting closer.”
It was the first time since 2004 that the Indians qualified for the state tournament, which they won in 2001.
Current state title holder NC began its defense with a second-place showing, falling to Kamiakin 30-45.
But the Indians are in good shape to compete in Pasco next weekend after having four runners finish in the top 10.
“We have been training hard. Our guys were a little tired, ran a little flat, but no excuses, they ran a great race,” NC coach Jon Knight said.
NC is anchored by seniors, Markus Taylor, who finished second with a time of 15:46, and Mohamed Ahmed, who ran 16:10.
Also qualifying for state was senior Sam Dickmann from Shadle Park, who placed eighth in 16:26.
Lewis and Clark and Gonzaga Prep are sending all seven runners to state after finishing first and second, respectively.
Senior Katie Thronson (18:07) coasted to a first-place finish for LC, crossing almost 30 seconds before runner-up Rebecca Lehman of University.
LC senior Abby Smith (19:09) and freshman Naomi Butler (19:22) came in seventh and eighth, respectively.
“We are feeling happy, very proud of this group of seniors,” LC head coach Kevin Swaim said.
“When you have a pack of three or four girls like we have now, it is really hard to beat a team like that,” Swaim said.
The G-Prep Bullpups are headed to their first state tournament since 2012. Head coach Stephen Manfred said his team will be ready, but not without a lot of work.
“We are not a team that can just show up and have good things happen,” Manfred said. “We have to work hard and hope the best happens.”
Bullpups sophomore Leah Carney finished third in 18:54.
Sticking with their theme of not losing this season, the Central Valley Bears paced the rest of the pack by finishing with 41 points, 22 less than second-place LC.
“Sheamus Mahoney and Joey Nicholls, No. 4 and 5, stepped up and they knew they had to and they both are rounding into form,” CV head coach Kieran Mahoney said.
“Everybody has some good runners, but a lot of teams have some really decent middle-of-the-pack guys and we aren’t middle pack,” Sheamus said. “Our fourth- and fifth-place runners are not middle-of-the-pack guys.”
Coach Mahoney is watching his team peak during the most competitive part of the season.
“We are getting hot at the right time,” Mahoney said. “That is what I told the guys on Thursday before practice. It is the postseason and everybody is 0 and 0. We are coming into form at the exact right time.”
And Pasco is next.
“We’re a week away,” he said. “Pasco is where we are going to race fast.”
LC is heading to its first state tournament as a team since 2012, when it finished fourth.
“It has been a few years since we have taken a team to state, so moving on to state was absolutely the objective today,” LC head coach Michael Lee said. “We would like to have our best race next week, but overall I am really happy with how the boys ran and they are happy to be moving on.”