Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake has another surprise finish at regionals

Cardinals will send nine placers to State 1A track this weekend at EWU


Paul Delaney

Medical Lake’s Zeb Klemke battles Lakeside’s Ryan Coffman down the stretch in the 1,600 meter run last during regional track competition at Riverside. Coffman snuck by Klemke at the line but both qualified for this weekend’s State A championships at EWU.

Medical Lake’s track team continues to surprise many people.

But not their co-head coach Gene Blankenship.

The Cardinals emerged from last Saturday’s regionals at Riverside High School with a third-place finish for the boys team and nine athletes – plus two alternates – headed to this weekend’s 1A/1B/2B state track championships at Eastern Washington University.

Quincy’s 92.33 points were just enough to edge Northeast A League Riverside’s 86.33 with ML in with 79, just ahead of Freeman’s 76. The meet also featured teams from Caribou Trail League.

After another strong finish – a second place – at districts for his boys, Blankenship no longer thinks it’s a fluke that his team keeps surprising people. “It boiled down to the sprint team doing the best performance, and the distance team backing them up,” Blankenship said.

Last year the Cardinals earned just one state slot with Amarah Nicholson. Medical Lake’s success can be attributed to a number of things like finally being in the right place, moving to the 1A level and being in a division in which they’re competitive. Blankenship said, “It might be the most kids we’ve ever sent to state,” at least in recent memory.

First places finishes for the boys went to Tellas Johnson, again, in the 100 and 200-meters and the 400-meter relay team. Johnson also came up two inches short of qualifying in the high jump.

“Tellas likes to scare us to death, he likes to take the first 100 easy in the 200 and then put it on,” Blankenship said. Johnson topped Dennis Merritt from Cascade 11.09 to 11.27 seconds and edged Max Axtell of Freeman 22.98 to 23.00 in the 200.

Nicholson scored a pair of top finishes in her signature events, the 100 and 200 meters for her team, which finished in a tie with Chewelah for eighth with 31 points. Lakeside won the team title with 144 points.

“Amarah, what do you say, she wins the 100 and 200,” Blankenship said. “Both Tellas and Amarah’s races were runaways as far as sprint races.”

Zeb Klemke may have had one of the more memorable distance races of his career, leading until the very end where lanky Ryan Coffman of Freeman snuck past Klemke in the 1,600 meter run. Coffman’s 4-minute, 33-second time was just ahead of the ML senior’s 4:33.80.

“It was so close I couldn’t call it at the finish line,” Blankenship said. Coffman’s torso crossed the line first, using his height to win the rubber match of races between the two.

Micah Dingfield also finished a close second to Coffman in the 3,200 with a 10:06.97 to 10.07.21. The 3,200 features a lot of strategy, Blankenship explained. “The only thing I was concerned about with Micah was being in a situation where he could get tripped.”

Domenic Rehm ran a 2 minute, 3.13 second time in the 800, finishing third – and qualifying for state – just ahead of Mark Newberry’s 2:03.94, a PR by about 2 ½ seconds Blankenship said. Rehm also improved by one or two seconds.

“Domenic really wanted to finish second in that race,” Blankenship said. “Those two guys from Riverside are about twice the size of Domenic,” Blankenship said. “He’s taking two strides for every one of theirs.”

Libbie Klettke threw 113 feet, 7 inches, good for third and a state berth. “We always thought her javelin was her best event,” Blankenship said.

ML’s alternates are Levi Rustman and Cameron Peak.

Because of his team’s success, Blankenship promises to have a new look this weekend at state. “The kids who qualified for state get to cut it off; actually they can do anything they want.” Even cornrows for his wavy and lengthy grey locks? “They can do anything they want,” Blankenship said.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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