PASCO – Pullman’s Eliason Kabasenche said he felt the pressure this season as the defending State 2A cross country champion.
“It’s very hard to repeat,” Kabasenche said. “Because once you win it, you have a fat target on your back. There is a lot of pressure on you. And a lot of that pressure comes from me.”
Kabasenche – who plans to run for the University of Portland next year – overcame that pressure on Saturday to win his second consecutive 2A championship at Sun Willows Golf Course.
He had to do it while sitting in fifth place over the first 2 miles of the 5,000-meter course. And he had to do it against Selah’s Shea Mattson, who had beaten him the week before at regionals in Selah.
“He deserved that win,” Kabasenche said of Mattson. “I have a wicked kick. But he also has a wicked kick.”
The Pullman senior said he made a mistake with about 800 yards to go, when Mattson broke from the pack and Kabasenche almost waited to go with him a split second too late.
But he quickly closed the gap, and it became a sprint over the final 500 yards.
“Today, I was trying to visualize this moment,” Kabasenche said. “I ran different scenarios through my head of how I’d win it. It came down to ‘Boy, I’m gonna have to kick it in.’ ”
As they got to the final hill, Kabasenche pulled slightly ahead of Mattson.
“My coach has always told us sometimes you’ve gotta go to the well,” Kabasenche said. “Today was the first time I ever had to do it. I dug deep. I had the mind of a war hero when I got to the top of that hill.”
He outleaned Mattson to finish in 15 minutes, 23.6 seconds – six-tenths of a second ahead of the Selah senior.
Cheney’s Bas Holland finished fourth at 15:41.8.
Sehome won its eighth consecutive team title with 89 points.
Leah Holmgren won the individual title in 18:61.4. She and her Ellensburg teammates were team champions with 83 points.
West Valley, paced by Allie Andrews’ 18th-place finish, finished tied for third in the team race with 107 points.
Colville’s Alaina Stone had one of the best performances of the day, pulling away from defending state champion Naomi Smith of King’s over the final half-mile for the victory.
Stone clocked 17:39.6, while Smith finished second at 18:24.
Stone stayed right on Smith’s hip for the first 2 miles.
“My plan was to stay right behind her,” Stone said. “I know how strong she is. I felt pretty good those last couple of miles. And I felt the pace had gotten slow when we started that last mile.
“I thought I could go out stronger.”
Stone finished second last year to Smith, but something told her this year would be different.
“I kept telling myself it was my turn,” Stone said. “My mentality was different. I kept saying I could do it. That last 100 yards, I wanted to drive as hard as I could until I was done.”
Smith said she expected Stone’s kick at the end.
“I was a little tired,” Smith said. “That second mile was really hilly. But she ran an amazing race.”
Deer Park won the team title with 98 points. Lakeside (Nine Mile Falls) was second with 107.
Brayden Merrill’s fourth-place finish led Lakeside to the team title.
The Eagles scored 92 points. Klahowya placed second with 109 and Medical Lake third at 112.
Adam Briejer of Charles Wright Academy repeated as state champion, finishing at 15:50.6.
Sophomore Gabby Martin of Life Christian Academy easily won the individual title in 17:57.5.
Garfield-Palouse senior Anais Mills was second in 19:24.6.
Led by Taylor Sande’s 18th-place finish, St. George’s placed third with 145 points.
Pope John Paul II of Lacey won the team title with 96 points.
Daniel Quintana of Ilwaco sprinted away from Trout Lake’s Justin Peck at the end to take the state title. Quintana finished in 15:55.8 and Peck clocked 15:59.8.
Kettle Falls junior Easton Pomrankey was the top local finisher, placing fifth in 16:12.5.
Northwest Christian (Lacey) won its sixth consecutive team title, scoring 70 points.