I'm not sure if the tears from the freshmen were of joy - taking second at State your first year is pretty special - or disappointment, because these young ladies came in with a belief that they could win. Either way, they had help and guidance from the other runners on the team, the junior class.
The race started on time and in a fog. Madison Ward and Marika Morelan, the very dynamic duo from St. George's, pulled into an early lead, with Shania Graham of Republic, Emily Adams of Waitsburg-Prescott, and the Asotin pair of Dykstra and Eggleston, Ellie Summers of Northwest Christian-Lacey, and Athena Milani of Liberty Bell.
I did a fast check. I thought Asotin was the youngest squad. Turns out, I was wrong. Liberty Bell brought six freshman to the meet.
Makayla Miller, yet another splendid freshman, and a pair of Northwest Christian-Colbert women paced out the next group, and then the main pack ran by. Ocosta put on a pretty display of team running and did a beautiful job of maintaining a pack.
By the halfway mark, the field thinned and the women headed out to no-man's-land at the back of the course where no one cheers and the sound of runners breathing and the footsteps next to you are all you have to anchor yourself to. Madie Ward (19:11) and Marika Morelan (19:15) ran wire-to-wire in the lead positions and never conceded an inch of ground.
The order at the top of the pack stayed relatively stable until just after the big hairpin turn just past the second mile mark. Maia Dykstra and Carmen Eggleston were still pacing each other, but on the descent from the green, Eggleston found another gear and went hunting for runners to take down. The last mile of the course, with its roller-coaster ride of never ending small hills, played to Eggleston's strengths. She may be the only Asotin runner ever to declare she loved the state course. Most just cuss it.
The team race, though, was decided down ticket, in the three, four, and five spots. Ocosta seniors Sararosa Gallo (21:09) and Rachel Saul (21:15) probably won the race for their team by running so strong together in the middle of the pack, while junior MacKenzie Ballo iced it with a 21:39.
In a surprise to the Asotin squad, Adrienne Washington, running in her first campaign and finally without a cast on her wrist, took third for the team. Her placement made the team race much closer, as did Katerina Stephenson's terrific kick that edged out the aforementioned Ballo. Samantha Nicholas took the fifth spot for Asotin. All the Asotin juniors ran PR's for the state course. Fun thought for the Panther partisans - Asotin is the only team in the top five that does not lose a graduating senior.
Northwest Christian-Lacey finished third among the teams, a position that they aren't used to. The eight-time defending champs finally had a slight down year, but what a terrific run they had. They'll be back and soon.
Reardon was the fourth team on the podium. The team ran well, but in a field this fast, their pack running was not quite able to make difference in the standings. Still, the team graduates three seniors and it's nice to see these classy ladies get their shot on the stand.