Cardinals focus on landing state track berths
Medical Lake should have shots at championships in Yakima
Last updated 5/12/2023 at 8:31am
MEDICAL LAKE – Cardinals track Coach Gene Blankenship approached this season with caution.
"You know, we're down in numbers," Blankenship said in assessing his teams at the start of the season in March. "I think that we're gonna' have a tough time winning some dual meets."
But now that his Cardinals - both boys and girls - have emerged from the Northeast A League season finishing better-than-expected, the old and bolder Blankenship is beginning to surface.
Both Medical Lake boys and girls finished 3-3 in league following last week's competition at home.
The Cardinal boys swept their matchups topping Colville, 88-55, and Riverside (Chattaroy), 84-57.
The local girls defeated Riverside, 97-48, but fell to Colville, 81.5-68.5.
Blankenship is confident that a number of Medical Lake competitors will make it to the 1A state meet.
That event moves to Eisenhower High School in Yakima this year, leaving Cheney and Eastern Washington University after a quarter-century.
It's a new season with districts and state on the horizon the month of May.
And Medical Lake once again has a chance to make more history under BLankenship. Not, perhaps, the state team title variety, but likely more individual champions.
Much of this new-found optimism from Blankenship comes after athletes like Reid Headrick, Kayla Ramsey and Chiche Okemgbo produced big wins May 3 in the Cardinals' lone home meet.
Headrick won all three races he entered, the 800-meter where he not only ran, but ran away in winning by 14 seconds.
He also led Medical Lake's dominating finish in the 1,600-meter, where the Cards took three of the Top 4 spots with a winning time of 4:55.27.
Nakai Ornleas (5:00.83) was second and Hector Gomez clocked a 5:12.82 for fourth. Ornleas and Gomez are just sophomores, meaning there appears to be a solid future ahead.
The local boys breezed past Colville in the 4X400 as Milan Contreras, Garrett Montney, Gomez and Headrick scored nearly a 20-second margin of victory.
Okemgbo swept throwing events winning the javelin (110-feet), discus (116-2) and shot put (39-7.5), each of the numbers a new personal record. That prompted Blankenship to issue quite a compliment:
"She's incredible, not only as a thrower, but as a human being," he said.
And remember Ramsey, the school-record shattering runner? Not a bad day for her, either.
After anchoring the 4X400 relay - also composed of Hazel Grubaugh, Kaylee Dennler and Jenna Castro - to a win, Ramsey won the 1,600 (5:33.96) ahead of Castro (5:37.38) and then the 800 in a time of 2:23.85.
The Cardinals also won the 4X200 relay (1:53.08) with Kelsey Braswell, Charde' Luat, Adasha Gardner and Layla Burris running legs.
Rounding out Medical Lake's success were wins by Liam Earl in the javelin with a 145-foot- 8 inch throw and Josh Henry's victory – by a mere half-inch - in the triple jump.
Each of those results, plus some overall successes this season, has suddenly helped restore that Blankenship bravado, which in the past has encouraged the veteran coach to issue bold predictions.
Barring multiple lightning strikes at practice and in districts set for Riverside in Chattaroy on May 19-20, Headrick, Ramsey and Okemgbo should qualify for state. But Blankenship thinks there is the possibility for more.
"I think I've got three shoe-ins to state okay, but to get a full week's pay, I gotta' get six kids there," he said jokingly. "So, I gotta' find three more."