Cheney Free Press -

Cheney girls peaking at the right time in cross country


November 2, 2017

The Cheney High girls cross country team’s train keeps rolling — with a final stop this coming Saturday at state 2A competition in Pasco at Sun Willows Golf Course.

The Blackhawks posted some of their best three-mile times to hold off Great Northern League and District 7 champion West Valley and finish second in regional action with Central Washington Athletic Conference teams at Apple Ridge Golf Course in Cowiche. The top-four teams qualified for Saturday’s meet in Pasco.

All five Cheney scoring runners turned in personal-bests at Apple Ridge, led by senior Hannah Spakousky’s fifth-place mark of 18 minutes, 59.9 seconds. Fellow senior Jolene Whiteley was eighth in 19:11 while freshman Marion Mager-Reeser’s 15th-place finish in 19:33.8 helped break up West Valley’s top-scoring trio of Annika Esvelt (10th), Sadie Langford (11th) and Emma Garza (16th).

Jaela Thornburg and Megan Habegger were not far behind Mager-Reeser, finishing 19th in 19:38.7 and 20th in 19:41.5 to cap Cheney’s scoring and giving the Blackhawks a 40.6 second gap between its 1 – 5 runners. Senior Jessica Vietzke’s season-best of 20:05.1 earned her 27th, with senior Brette Draper finishing 35th in 20:57.9.

Head coach Derek Slaughter believes Cheney now has seven girls who can step up their level of competition at any time. All of them appear to be peaking at the right moment.

“Jessica is a perfect example of peaking at the right time,” Slaughter said in an email. “She is beating other teams’ five girls to add points to their score. She was not doing that earlier this season.”

Selah claimed the regional title, finishing with 45 points to Cheney’s 62. West Valley was third with 77 and Ellensburg a surprising fourth with 85.

The Bulldogs entered regionals ranked No. 1 in state 2A in the Washington State Cross Coaches Association’s Oct. 23 poll. Selah was No. 2, while West Valley was fifth and Cheney sixth in standings.

“We are a scary squad if they all can pull together and pack up one more time,” Slaughter said.

Two of Cheney’s three boys individual runners advanced to Pasco with top-20 finishes at Cowiche. Sophomore Bas Holland finished fourth overall with a time of 15:45.1 while junior Tucker Cunningham set a new PR of 16:19.3 for 19th. Slaughter said freshman Beckett Schoenleber was under the weather, and finished 47th in 17:37.3.

Cheney junior varsity squads had a pretty good afternoon as well, with both the boys and girls teams taking first. The Blackhawk boys out-pointed fellow GNL opponent East Valley 42-54 while the girls edged Ellensburg 38-39.

Senior Sam Steele led the way for the boys by placing fifth, with Dillon Newbry sixth, senior Patrick Purviance 12th, JT Gasper 13th and Charles Cindric 16th. Four Blackhawks girls made the top 10, with freshman Mayah Spakousky third, sophomores Alexia Batchelor and Ryleigh Bowes fourth and seventh and freshman Hallie Sargent ninth. Maisie Short was 15th and Jimena Lopez Barranco was 22nd.

The 2A girls state finals races begins at 11 a.m. with the boys at 1:30 p.m.

John McCallum can be reached at


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