Big turnout with solid returning core signals an OK Northeast A League debut for Cards
Medical Lake head track coach Gene Blankenship is content with a slow start because he’s quite confident his team will finish strong.
So with that in mind he’s not worried his star sprinter – Amarah Nicholson – and the future of his distance running – Micah Dingfield – both sophomores, are a little slow in the early going.
Medical Lake has three meets under its collective boys’ and girls’ belts, the most recent last Saturday at the Deer Park Invitational. Even with spring break, the Cardinals will keep working in preparation for their first Northeast A League meet, April 17 when they host Lakeside.
Nicholson won both the 100 and 200-meter dashes at Deer Park, but Blankenship kept her out of the 400, he said.
“She’s running slow times now but by the end of the season she’s going to be a lot faster,” Blankenship said. He sees the speedy sophomore as “our best bet to go to state.”
Nicholson is just a bit behind the conditioning curve, but will conquer the gap quickly, her coach thinks. “She has a lot of talent, there’s no doubt about that,” Blankenship said. “She’s stronger than she was last year.”
Senior Libbie Klettke was another solid performer at Deer Park in the field events and was third in the shot put and fourth in the discus.
“She’s not hitting her PRs yet,” her coach said, but again, it’s early. “I’ve got good expectations for her.”
Other notable finishes from Deer Park included sophomore Kaylin Sattler’s sixth in the 1,600 and seventh in the 800.
Blankenship predicts a 3-3 finish in his first year competing in the Northeast A League. “In all honesty we will lose to Freeman, we will lose to Riverside and Lakeside,” Blankenship said, but finish ahead of Kettle Falls, Newport and Chewelah.
While speed is the key for potential success on the girls’ side, distance events will ultimately elevate the boys with Zeb Klemke and Micah Dingfield, both state cross country top finishers, at the top of the list.
Klemke, Blankenship said, “Is by far our best distance runner right now.” He was second in the 800 and fourth in the 1,600.
Dingfield, a sophomore, had trained hard during the winter, but developed a condition called plantar fasciitis. The painful inflammation of the connective tissue on the sole of the foot can be debilitating, but Dingfield is trying to work his way through it.
“He’s run through it and getting stronger,” Blankenship said. “I’ve only raced him once at each meet so far while I’ve raced Zeb twice.”
Dingfield has a speed edge on Klemke, but the injury is slowing him somewhat. “He PR’ed by three seconds in the 3,200, the first time he’s run the 32,” Blankenship said of Dingfield.
The Cardinals are more than two-deep in the distance events with the group rounded out by senior Mark Newberry and sophomore, Domenic Rehm. “They’re solid,” Blankenship said.
Blankenship likes the promise he’s seen in the likes of Jaelon Stith, a freshman high jumper and sprinter.
As with the girls, Lakeside, Riverside and Freeman will fight it out for the top spot on the boys’ side Blankenship predicted.
He’s confident, however, that gap can be closed, primarily with a focus on the distance events. “We have a really good core for the next two years,” he said. “But I think we’re going to get a better sprint group and get better field events.
“All in all we’re improved, much improved,” Blankenship said, adding that team numbers have shot up to nearly 60, up from the 44 that began the season in 2012. “We’re improving there.”
Having a consistent coaching staff for he last three years has helped. Blankenship concentrates on the distance events while Steven Keith focuses on field events. Ryan Jones is the second assistant.
“The three of us work really good together,” Blankenship said.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.