Medical Lake claims 1A team track championship
Strong finish in 3,200-meter run secures first-ever track title for Cards
Medical Lake High School
Medical Lake's boy's track team earned the school's first-ever state title last Saturday at Eastern Washington University's Roos Field, edging Zillah 50-48 on the strength of the Cardinals' finish in the 3,200-meter run.
For Medical Lake co-head track coach Gene Blankenship, winning the state 1A track team championship last Saturday certainly came from left field.
Or maybe from about 10,500 feet away, the distance Jacob and Micah Dingfield covered to finish the 3,200-meter run?
The brothers' No. 3 and No. 6 finishes proved to be the event that finally pushed the Cardinals to a most unlikely finish at Eastern Washington University's Roos Field, site of the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association 1A/1B/2B state championships.
Medical Lake edged Zillah out of the Yakima area 50-48 in the final team standings delivering a second state championship in the last six months. ML's cross country team won a title in November in Pasco. It was the Cards first-ever track title.
Going into the 3,200 the calculations had been made and, "We knew we had to do pretty good in the 32," Blankenship explained. Zillah had a high jumper still competing but scored just a single point.
"We knew at that point if we did decent in the 32 we were going to win it," Blankenship said.
Blankenship, noted in the past for his ability to predict the future in other events, such as the state cross country championships last fall, admitted he didn't see this surprise coming.
"I never got a sense for it, the kids kept coming back and telling me where we were," Blankenship said. "The kids would come by and say, 'Hey Gene, we're tied for first.'"
Just before the running of the 3,200, the points were calculated and the strategy hatched. "This is what we have to do to win," he said.
"A couple of times there in the 32 it looked like we were going to fold, but in that last half mile Jacob and Micah came on like gangbusters to give us that 3, 6 (finish)," Blankenship said. "At that point in time, unless someone made a mistake we were pretty sure we were going to win it."
There were other numbers that proved pretty remarkable, too.
"All year long I figured we were a top-end team, we had really good top-end talent, but we don't have enough bodies," Blankenship explained. Zillah brought 16 boys to the meet while Medical Lake had just seven. The Cardinals finished third in the Northeast A League and Bi-Districts, but won the state title.
"That's because of Tellas (Johnson), Domenic (Rehm), Micah (Dingfield), Jacob (Dingfield) and our 4 x 100," Blankenship said. Points in track meets are awarded 10 for first, eight for second, six for third, four for fourth and then in increments of one after that.
Medical Lake only had one first place, the 4x100 relay team, but sprinkled in some second and third places to earn the necessary points. In that race Cameron Peake, Elijah Farmen, Jared Wright and Johnson combined for a 43.44 second time and a slim win over Zillah's 43.53 clocking.
"Tellas was our workhorse again," Blankenship said. Johnson was second in the 100–meter to Elma's Ray Stark, 10.86 to 11.09 seconds and in the 200 to Hoquiam's Devin Kelly, 21.12-22.45.
Medical Lake's distance runners were what Blankenship called "The body of our army." The sprinters outscored the distance group by about four or five points, Blankenship said. "But the distance runners made up for a lot, without a doubt."
Medical Lake's Domenic Rehm completes lap-two in Friday's preliminary round of the 1,600-meter run. Rehm was third both days and runner-up in the 800 Saturday, earning critical points for the eventual 1A state team champion Cardinals.
Along with the team title, Cardinal competitors set a pair of school records in the 4x100 at 43.44 seconds and Rehm in the 800 in 1:57.94 and second place in the final. "He just got outstepped at the finish line," Blankenship said describing the winning time of 1:57.55 by LaCenter's Kyle Degraaff.
Rehm finished third in the 1,600 on Friday, a disappointment for the senior, his coach said. "We thought Domenic should have won that race, so did Dom," Blankenship said. "He didn't have the fastest times going in and he almost pulled off the win," finishing in 4:26.72 behind NEA rival Ryan Coffman's 4:25.55, Degraaff at 4:26.47.
Peake finished seventh in the 300-meter hurdles in a time of 41.25.
On the girls' side, Medical Lake took just two competitors to Cheney and as a team were 35th with eight points, behind the runaway winners, King's, with 156. NEA rival Lakeside was second at 104. Nyirenda Ross finished ninth in the discus with a throw of 105 feet, 8 inches. Mariah Pena clocked a 2:23.36 for fifth in the 800 after finishing seventh in her preliminary heat Thursday.
Paul Delaney can be reached at email@example.com.