Championship caps thousands of miles of preparation
Led by senior Logan Giese, the Central Valley High School boys cross country team earned its first-ever state championship title Saturday in Pasco. The young, but fierce Bears team drew the farthest lane assignment at the Sun Willows Golf Course starting line, but according to coach Kieran Mahoney, the lane assignment ended up being a good thing.
"The start at state can be brutal," Mahoney explained, "but because we were on the far right, we could pick and choose when we blended in with the rest of the race. Our start was perfect."
In a race of 151 runners, of which 100 will pour across the finish line in a two-minute window, getting good position at the start is crucial.
Giese, the first of the Bears blue wave, paced perfectly through the first mile.
"I knew at a mile mark, that Logan was perfectly placed," Mahoney admitted. "He did not go out too insanely fast."
And while most of us would call a 4:50 mile insanity, he was followed closely by his six teammates who stampeded past the mile within 20 seconds of him.
And then the Bears began to do what they have done so well all year, race together through the last two miles. Giese said of the first mile that he felt the lead pack in front of him had taken out very fast.
"But then I started picking people off," he recalled. "I passed eight or 10 people."
Because the state meet allows a Coach very few chances to be within shouting distance of the runners, Coach Mahoney repeatedly encouraged his runners to coach each other.
"I saw Corey Hunter and Briton Demars doing the roll call, where they look around and call to a teammate who needs to move," Mahoney recalled.
Hunter acknowledged he was indeed checking on his teammates during the race.
"It felt really good to be racing with Spencer and Briton and to be able to see Logan - and it's always nice to visibly see and check off the targets." Hunter added, referring to how well the three of them moved past runners from second-place Eisenhower and third-place Gig Harbor.
"Logan was in 11th, and Spencer Jensen and Corey Hunter were coming right behind him," he said.
Giese held his 11th place spot and finished the 5,000-meter course with a time of 15.43.9. Jensen, the fourth-fastest sophomore in the race, placed 22nd in 15.54.7.
Hunter, a junior from Liberty Lake, had led the Bears in last year's fifth-place appearance at state. However, he has suffered from injuries that resulted in a late start this season. Even so, he hung close behind Jensen to finish 25th at 16.01.4, five seconds faster than his 2011 state time.
With a breakout race, Sophomore Briton Demars came powering down the final 50 meters to place fourth for CV and 34th overall in a time of 16.13.8. The fifth man, also a sophomore, was Colton Pegram from Liberty Lake, earning 51st place in 16.22.6. Matt Hommel and Austin Seely, juniors from Liberty Lake, rounded out the Blue wave, with 16.27.8 and 16.34.5 respectively.
And then the wait began.
"It was agonizing waiting," Mahoney confessed.
Runners, coaches, parents, classmates, administrators and fans of the Central Valley Bears milled about, clustering anxiously in huddles of conversation, speculating as they waited for the results of the 2012 4A race. Central Valley ASB Vice President Kyle LeBlanc scribbled calculations on a 3x5 card, trying to make a best guess at whether or not his teammates had clinched first place. Mahoney tried to preserve the routine, getting his team back out on the course for a cool down run.
Finally, when the loudspeaker announced that the 4A results had been posted, a deafening roar erupted. Bears swarmed to hug and high-five each other. A few parents cried, and the runners reveled in the fitting culmination of thousands of miles run in preparation for this moment.
"These kids ran all summer, all through cross country, all winter, all through track and all summer again preparing for this victory," Mahoney explained.
And then they ran a little farther, as they chased their coaches down to the Sun Willows Golf Course pond for a victory celebration, not unlike the Gatorade dousing that might come from a more stationary sport. This little swim in the pond was a tradition passed on to the Bears by Coach Pat Tyson, who led the Mead Panthers to many victories in the 53-year history of the Washington State Cross Country meet.
The Central Valley Boys have made only nine appearances in those 53 years. Yet, the 2012 team had an average racing time of 16.03.3 to tie with Mead's fastest average time and finish as the eighth-fastest all-time in the 4A division for a 5,000-meter Washington state competition.
Giese's performance earned him a trip to the Border Clash meet, which includes the top 40 runners from Washington racing the top 40 runners from Oregon.
"That's been a goal of mine since freshman year," he said.
In addition, parents have organized a postseason trip to Boise for a Nike Pre-National Meet, where the boys hope to win a chance to race at the Nike Cross National meet on Dec. 1, 2012.