Blackhawks runners surprise league favorites to return to state meet
Cheney's Kameron Galm passes through the chute in the 2A Bi-Districts staged at a very windy Plantes Ferry Park.
Cheney's boys and girls cross country teams proved the old axiom that "it's not how you start but how you finish," might need a little tweaking. For the Blackhawks to make return trips to 2A state competition, it was all about starting and finishing.
Both Cheney squads came out aggressive, raced hard and finished strong in earning second-place finishes in District 7 competition last Saturday at Plantes Ferry State Park, pulling a couple of upsets in qualifying once again for team competition this Saturday at Pasco's Sun Willows Golf Course. The boys will be making their eighth consecutive appearance at state while for the girls it's five straight.
"I'll take it," head coach Jay Martin said. "It's nice to have (team) practice this week."
The Blackhawks girls continued to show improvement in race strategy and execution, posting a 1 minute, 11.44 second gap between the No. 1 and 5 scoring runners, all of whom placed in the top 20, including four in the top 15, the only team other than meet champion Deer Park to do so. Mariah Brenton led the Blackhawks girls, placing sixth in 21:08.44 on the wet and very windy 5,000-meter course, with Kelsey Schwendiman and Mattie McNair following in 10th and 11th and Claire Lunde in 15th.
Cheney's top-two finish likely came down to how fifth runner Johanna Sherman did at the end. Martin said the senior picked off several runners late, including Deer Park's No. 5 and state-qualifier favorite Pullman's No. 4, to finish 17th and provide Cheney with crucial points.
The Blackhawks boys put three runners in the top 10 and four in the top 12, led by Kyle Lerch in fifth at 16:45.06, followed by Kameron Galm in seventh and Nick Steele in ninth. Cheney got some help from East Valley's No. 3 runner Casey Pedersen, who bettered his previous 5,000-meter time by almost 29 seconds to finish sixth and in the process helped Galm move preseason title favorite Deer Parks' top runner Ammon Hall down two spots.
Steele's finish split the Stags No. 1 and 2 runners, Hall and senior Brady Bollum, and Zachman's 12th-place split Deer Park's No. 3 and 4s, gaining valuable points.
Mason Van Stone finished 22nd for Cheney's final points, giving the boys a 1:38.20, 1-5 gap, with Kaleb Lerch 23rd and Dallin Olson 30th.
For Martin, the district finishes and return to state was nice considering the challenges the Blackhawks faced the past several weeks in injuries and schedules impacting their varsity lineups. A concussion kept Zachman out of meets with West Valley/Colville and Clarkston while Van Stone and Lunde missed late season competition with shin splints and Schwendiman's band duties prevented her from competing at times as well.
"Every team's got their stories though," Martin said. "We weren't the only ones."
Martin also praised the performances of Brenton and Kyle Lerch. Both seniors have been Cheney's top finishers consistently all season, demonstrating leadership and determination.
Martin said the Blackhawks are going to have to tighten their scoring gaps some more if they hope to earn high team finishes in Pasco. To prepare, however, both squads will first get some rest, followed by a tune up run and some "short, fast stuff to help get their heart rates up."
"Less is more at this point," Martin said.
John McCallum can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.