Cheney Free Press -

Staff Reporter 

Medical Lake chases limited state 1A track berths


Medical Lake expects to still have a presence at next week’s 1A state track meet at Eastern Washington University’s Roos Field.

It’s just that the look promises to be different than in the past after district competition May 18–19 at Riverside High School.

“I can give you what I think my sure entry is going to be,” head coach Gene Blankenship said. That would be junior, and prior state qualifier, Jaxyn Farmen in the long and triple-jump.

The other ones are going to be a little tough, Blankenship said, but he also thought senior Kayla Branch should qualify in the long jump.

“The field events are starting to come along,” Blankenship said.

In the running events on the boys’ side, the Cardinal 4x100 has consistently qualified for state in recent years. The team is made up of Grant Greenhall, Urijah Taylor, JJ Johnson and Pedro Sandre.

“There are four teams in contention now and right now we have the fastest 4-by (in 1A) in the state,” Blankenship said. Success in that event depends on hand offs, Blankenship said. “If the hand-offs go perfect we should win.”

There are only two guaranteed allocations for the Northeast A, with a third possible depending on how they stack up against state qualifying times.

To possibly take advantage of this, the league voted to move the 4x100 to the first event of the district championships, giving the sprinters fresh legs since most also compete in other disciplines.

“It’s probably going to be the most exciting race of the day,” Blankenship said.

In another sprint race, it is possible to get another qualifier —either Urijah Taylor and Pedro Sandre, both sophomores — in the 100 and 200.

Medical Lake has developed into a state power in cross country under Blankenship. But, so it seems, has the rest of the Northeast A.

The Cardinals last qualified distance runners to state in 2015 when Domenic Rehm won both 800 and 1,600-meter titles. This year Mason Williams will try to qualify in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races. Tyler Pena will concentrate on the 3,200, where he has “His best chance,” Blankenship said.

“Again, we only get two spaces and Ben Shaw (from Riverside) is unbeatable in the 16 and 32,” Blankenship said. “So again, we’re fighting for one spot or a qualifying time.”

Unless Medical Lake can chalk up record times in either, which would allow them to earn a berth.

Looking back through the regular season, Blankenship said this has been the best league season since his first track year, 2011. In NEA dual-meets the girls were 5-2 while the boys were 4-3.

“We’ve always done pretty well at the state meet — we’re a little down with that quality of kids — but we have more kids placing in events,” Blankenship said. Medical Lake will send 20 athletes, determined by top-16 lists of best meet efforts in 2018.

The girls are beginning to emerge from the long shadow of the boys in recent years.

“We have some really, really young sprinter girls,” Blankenship said. “That’s encouraging because we would really like to see our girls program get stronger.”

One part that has improved is the field side. Assistant coach Bill Berg has done a very good job with the throwing events, Blankenship said.

“We’re not to the point of being able to get to state at this point in time, but they have improved so much,” Blankenship said.

Youth has also been a favorable factor for Medical Lake as a good percentage of the entire track team were freshmen in 2018. “That’s encouraging for the future,” Blankenship said.

The team, coaches included, continues to deal with post-Journey Tueller times. Tueller was killed and three teammates — Lauren Gross, Laci Sica and Savannah Sutton — injured in an automobile accident April 14.

“I think the kids have handled it better than the coaches to be honest,” Blankenship said.

The district meet takes place at Riverside High School. Field events start at 3 p.m. and 3:30 for running with preliminary and some finals Friday. On Saturday, the competition begins at 10 a.m. with titles and state berths at stake.

Paul Delaney can be reached at


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