Considering they had little time to seriously practice, Gene Blankenship got some pleasant surprises when he took Medical Lake's track team to Richland for last Saturday's five-team invitational.
The Cardinals, the only 1A team and smallest school in the meet, earned two first-place and two runner-up finishes on the boys' side and a girls' runner-up.
"It went pretty good, actually," Blankenship, the team's co-coach said.
The wins came from Domenic Rehm in the 800 meters where the junior clocked a finish of 2 minutes, 4.83 seconds, just under a second ahead of 3A Kamiakin's Brent Christianson at 2:05.75.
What really impressed Blankenship was the effort of the 4 x 4 relay team of Cameron Peake, Jackson Tappero, Rehm and Tellas Johnson who anchored the win. ML runners recorded a time of 3:37.35 seconds to beat host Richland, a 4A school, at 3:38.91. "That time is the best in the state for all divisions," Blankenship said.
"Normally at the beginning of the season I like to run fastest to slowest," Blankenship explained, which would have put Johnson first out of the blocks. "I was going to lead off with Tellas but the kids talked me into changing it, and it worked out," as Johnson raced the final leg.
Blankenship said he tries to listen to his kids. "Sometimes they know a heck of a lot more than I do, especially about the competition."
Johnson, a standout as a sophomore and a state qualifier, was a just under half-second behind Ben Kelly of 3A Hanford, in a tight 10.93-11.34 second finish.
Junior Elijah Farmen's 148 foot, 3 inch throw left him second to Richland's Taylor O'Toole's 170-05 toss in the javelin.
The Medical Lake girl's 4 x 4 relay team of Mariah Kroeze, Kaylin Sattler, Mariah Pena and Michaela Peterson finished their race in 4:55.10 behind the 4:39.79 from Richland.
Blankenship gave a great deal of credit for the team's good initial outing to new sprint coach, David McNeal who assists in the fall with the cross country team.
"He's a studier," Blankenship said.
Medical Lake got a pair of notable finishes from a pair of athletes. They were far from the podium but important, Blankenship said.
One came from Micah Dingfield in the boy's 1,600 meters where the cross country standout was working to get back to form following suffering a stress fracture last fall. The junior was a distant 12th with a time of 4:48.5 seconds, 26 seconds off the 4:22.80 pace of winner, Michael Williams from Richland.
Another cross country runner on the girl's side is Maleeka Wegner who chose track over softball in her junior year. In her first meet she finished 10th in the 1,600 in a time of 5:56.46 behind the 5:01.58 of winner Megan Beauchene from Kamiakin.
"I asked her why she changed from softball to track," Blankenship said. "She said she wants to be on the podium in cross country," and track will be better preparation for the fall.
Blankenship also singled out Nyirenda Ross, a senior who finished eighth in the shot put at 24-07 and fourth in the discus at 82-11. "Both of those were just shy of her personal records," he said.
The track team takes the week off before resuming competition Saturday, March 29 at the Ezra Gordon Invitational in Colville.
Paul Delaney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.