Cardinal girls make state for first time since 2003, boys earn first berth since 2004
Gene Blankenship has proven he’s a pretty good cross country coach.
Now he might add clairvoyant following both of his Medical Lake teams qualifying for this Saturday’s state meet at Pasco.
The Cardinals finished second in the boys’ and third in girls’ competition. “That was basically what I predicted in the preview,” Blankenship reminded. “I was real pleased.”
It’s been nearly a decade since the last Medical Lake team qualified to run at state. The girls’ team made it to state in 2003 and it was 2004 for the boys. Nine Cardinal runners from each team will be at Sun Willows Golf Course Saturday.
Medical Lake’s boys had three of the top five individual finishers in the meet run on the 3-mile course at Walla Walla Park in Wenatchee last Friday. Their 51 points put them behind fellow Northeast A League team Lakeside’s 31.
The girls, with 98 points, trailed Lakeside (38 points) and Riverside (40) as Blankenship got a surprise when freshman Sakaiya McCoy topped the ML contingent.
For the Medical Lake boys, senior Zeb Klemke finally emerged on top individually after waging a season-long battle with Micah Dingfield as the top boys’ finisher.
Klemke clocked a 16 minute, 32.7 second time to finish behind Lakeside’s Ryan Coffman at 16:24.4. Dominec Rehm was fourth overall and second for the Cards at 16:47.9 while Dingfield, running while sick the past few weeks, was fifth overall and third for Medical Lake with a time of 16:49.2.
To star at state “We need a stronger performance out of four and five,” Blankenship said. “If we can get that we have a chance of placing in the top four.”
Sophomore Tim Chernishoff was the fourth place Medical Lake runner, 16th overall, at 17:26.2 while Luke Alvardo, a senior, placed 23th (17:46.7) and sophomore Noah Kroeze 27th (18:04.7) to round out the Medical Lake top six.
Blankenship said Chernishoff has been his consistent No. 4 runner all season and to improve his time, “He just has to learn to hold on longer,” his coach said.
Klemke’s race strategy was to go real hard after the 2-mile mark, Blankenship said. “He stayed with them and pushed out after two miles and got away from Micah.”
Taking three out of the top five spots was not unexpected, Blankenship said. “We’ve been running really good through three,” he said. “If we had four and five up there we’d be looking for a state title.”
Blankenship predicts a finish anywhere from third to sixth while the girls could place from sixth to ninth in team competition.
McCoy shocked many by being the top Medical Lake girls’ runner, finishing third overall in a time of 19:36, behind a tandem of Lakeside runners, Lindy Johnson (19:14.2) and Sofia Markis (19:27.9).
“She had a real good race and Kelby (Wegner) let her get away from her,” Blankenship said. Wegner, a senior, will be making a return trip to Pasco, however with her seventh place finish in a time of 19:55.7. Kaylin Sattler’s 21:44.1 was 26th overall and third for ML while Maleeka Wegner clocked a 21:44.83, good for 27th and fourth for the Cardinals on the girls’ side.
Mariah Kroeze (22:14.47) and Brandi Wren (22:35.83) rounded out the top six.
When asked what pushed McCoy to the top team finish for the Cardinals, Blankenship offered an explanation from McCoy’s mother. “She said it was rainy and wet and she’s a swimmer and she’s used to the water.”
Seriously, “She had a great race, there’s no doubt about it,” Blankenship said.
But there’s a challenge for McCoy in Pasco from Wegner who predicts she’ll break the school record by running quicker than 20:33. Medical Lake school records are all based on state competition.
The course at Pasco is the same year after year.
As far the hope of a high team finish, even though he thinks he has talent to do so, Blankenship said not having experience at state will likely be their handicap. “Kelby and Zeb are the only two that’s ever ran there,” he said.
Blankenship is already looking on to 2013. He has four top sophomores currently on the varsity team and his two alternates also return.
“I told Chris Spring (ML’s athletics director) that we need to reserve rooms for next year because we’re going to make it back in both boys and girls next year.” Blankenship admits it’s an outlandish prediction, “But I think it’s going to happen.”
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.