Done Coaching, So Now I Can Cheer

GSL (Greater Spokane League - 3A) Mead/Ferris/SP/MSHS

The junior high season at Asotin ended on the 13th, so I had some time to go watch the older kids racing. I was at Mead in Spokane on Wednesday and at Clarkston for the District 9 meet Saturday.

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The Mead meet was right after school and the GSL women's championship was on the line, with the hosts in contention. Last year it rained, a slow cold drizzle. The sunshine and sixty degrees temps were a substantial improvement.

After the JV races, the women took to the line. The emotional leader of the team, Rayanna, kept the ladies focused on getting ready for the race. Once it started, a cold bug kept her from having the race she hoped for. She ran with a lot of guts

Teammate Hannah Tomeo went out with the Mt. Spokane ladies at Coach Dori Whitford's direction. As Dori said, she "wanted to give her more than one way to race." To often, the coaches aren't teaching racing strategy, turning a foot race into a horse race. Yet, as Rono and Lindgren proved, strategy has a place in cross country and forcing your opponent into mistakes can lead to satisfying victories.

In the end, the top three Mt. Spokane ran away from the Mead ladies. Mead took the next four spots. A pretty good dose of dominance by both programs. Something that should cheer the Mead ladies - Mt. Spokane graduates two of those top three. Mead has their top six back and several JV girls nearly ready to step up to help the squad.

The men's race was more balanced, but Ferris edged Mead. Mt. Spokane runner Hayden Dressel took the lead from the start, but his team was never in serious contention. The real battle occurred in the 2-5 positions with a pair of Ferris runners, Erik Holm and Amir Ado, running stride for stride with a pair of Mead men, Will Medellin and Cameron Dean. Will, who was also in the creative writing class I taught earlier in the day, pushed against the Ferris pair, holding onto them for the entire race, with Cameron a few steps back. Behind them, a trio of Mead men tried to close on a quartet from Ferris.

The race at the front came down to a hard chase and kick. Will Medellin managed to get past Ado and Dean did as well. Into the final stretch, Holm led those two, and then launched a kick. Dean unleashed a huge kick of his own, caught Holm and captured the number two spot. Medellin didn't have quite the same finishing speed but fought like heck anyway. I love watching athletes leave it on the course.

District 9 - 2B Meet

Back on home turf, I got to cheer for kids that I coached and some that ran with my daughters. I think this is the last year I can say that. Time moves quickly - the Asotin assistant coach, Jessie Johnson, was a teammate of my middle daughter.

 Photo courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey

Photo courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey

Girls raced first and Asotin was expected to win the team title. A pack of four ran away from the rest of the field, led by Anna Ruthven of DeSales. Emily Adams stayed hard on her heels, and Carmen Eggleston and Maia Dykstra maintained contact. Mykayla Miller from Pomeroy, Celeste Davis of TCP, and Kat Stephenson (Asotin) formed the next group. Lauren Ruthven (DeSales) and Adriana Bernal (TCP) held position, and then a wave of orange crested as the rest of the Asotin Panthers flew by on the outbound leg of the course.

On the return part of that leg, before the big hill, Ruthven held the lead on Adams by about 20 meters. The Asotin freshman pair had split apart (Maia Dykstra was running with a lingering cold) with Eggleston in front. Forty meters behind them were Davis and Miller. Another gap appeared before Stephenson, running strong, popped into view. It would be nearly a minute before the next runner showed up.

 Photo courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey

Photo courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey

By the bottom of the hill Adams had closed the gap on Ruthven to a few seconds. Midway up the hill, she through on a hard surge topass the DeSales lady. The change in Emily Adams over the course of the season has been impressive. She's learned to race, and when to take chances to bust open a lead. Ruthven took second with Eggleston locking in third place. Dykstra, despite the cold, battled her way up the hill on guts to hang onto fourth, holding off another freshman, Mykayla Miller. Freshman Celeste Davis trailed in Miller.

Samantha Nicholas stirred the local crowd with a terrific kick and Paiton Vargas, in a bit of a surprise, was the number five runner for Asotin as she seems to be figuring out the whole racing part of running. All eight Asotin ladies placed in the top fifteen.

In all, freshmen captured four of the top six placements. Something that should worry other teams is that Asotin does not have a senior in their top eight. Four are freshmen, four are juniors. The Panthers appear poised for an extended run at the podium. Pomeroy also has a very young team and a growing tradition.

The men's race didn't resolve itself so quickly. Asotin and TCP were in the mix for the team title. The strength of the TCP program under Scott Larsen has always been the quality of the runners, top to bottom. He does a really nice job of bringing them along, and in good numbers, so that the middle of his pack never has a hole that a competing team can take advantage of. TCP put seven runners in the top sixteen to win the race, but only by a point as Asotin did a nice job of scoring.

Kenneth Rooks was the overall winner, and Thomas Weakland led the Panther squad. Third went to DeSales Daniel Ness, fourth to TCP's Phillip Geist, and fifth to Asotin freshman Eli Engledow. Landon Callas of Waitsburg-Prescott finished in sixth. TCP began to flex the mid-pack muscle with Cesar Robles and Thomas Mercer leading the way, Spencer Williams of Asotin in pursuit. Senior Nate Prior would be the next Asotin finisher, in twelfth place. TCP put four consecutive harriers across the line to seal the race. Thomas Martin, another promising Asotin freshman, closed out the scoring for the Panthers.  

 Photo courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey

Photo courtesy of Suzy Cowdrey

Next week, and presumably at State, these team will meet again. Podium spots and bragging rights will be on the line.