By JOHN McCALLUM
After weeks of lonely road work Cheney cross country teams finally got to test themselves against runners wearing different colored jerseys at last Saturday's 26-team Highlander Invitational at Shadle Park High School.
The Blackhawks' boys competed against runners in their own class standing, while the girls ran in three races: freshmen, a combined race for schools with under 600 enrollment and JV squads from larger schools and finally the varsity race.
Junior Kyle Lerch posted the fastest time for the Cheney boys, sixth in the junior race with a time of 13 minutes, 30 seconds on the relatively flat but sun-baked 2.5-mile course. Head coach Jay Martin said it was solid performance, noting Lerch turned in a fairly fast 5:07 mark at the first mile, eventually finishing 47 seconds behind race winner Nicholas Hauger from Shadle.
Nick Steele was 14th overall in the junior boys race and had the team's fourth fastest mark with a time of 14 minutes.
Kameron Galm had the highest finish for the Cheney boys, fourth in the sophomore race with the team's second-fastest time at 13:40. Corey Klotz-Brooks posted the third fastest time for the Blackhawks, finishing 11th overall in the senior boys race in 13:41, well back of Mead's Andrew Gardner who annihilated the field with a time of 12:16, 31 seconds ahead of the next highest finisher. Together with Matt Duray and Jesse Hallstrom, both of whom turned in times of 14:15 for fifth and sixth team marks, Klotz-Brooks helped lead Cheney to a third-place overall team finish.
Derek Denenny turned in a time of 14:27 in the sophomore boys race to round out the Blackhawk boys' top seven. Martin noted that sophomore Steaven Zachman also had a good performance, finishing 14th overall in 14:53.
Senior Sanne Holland led the Cheney girls' varsity team, running neck-and-neck with Richland's Lindsey Bradley and Kamiakin's Megan Beauchene before the Tri-Cities duo pulled away late to duel for the varsity individual title, won by Bradley with a time of 14:51 Holland was third with a time of 15:02.
Mariah Brenton was second for the Blackhawks with a time of 16:55, with Anika Kuula third in 17:44, Johanna Sherman fourth in 17:48 and sophomore Mattie McNair the fifth scorer with a time of 18:58.
“It was a good effort,” Martin said of both Blackhawks squads Highlander performances. “I'm proud of the effort. That's what we're really looking for in that first race.”
Cheney continues its invitational schedule this Saturday, taking part in the Mead Invitational at Mead High School in north Spokane. Whereas the Highlander course was 2.5 miles, the Mead course is the standard 3.1 mile, 5,000 meters the Blackhawks will run during the regular season, and should give them an indication of where their race conditioning is early on.
John McCallum can be reached at email@example.com.