Moses Lake runners ready to climb the mountain

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It’s go time.

You can see it when they race. You can see it in their eyes. You can tell. There’s nowhere to hide on race day and the hard work away from prying eyes moves the front like a stream on its way to becoming the King Columbia River.

Race day, it starts in the summer when the temperatures are hot, like the spirit that drives a long distance runner. Unlike basketball, where if the point guard gets hot for 50 points, it covers the shooting funk of the small forward. Cross country is your cross to bear.

Your place matters in the team concept, but when it comes right down to it, it’s just you, the course and the other 150 kids with the same dream of winning the last race of the season.

The Washington State Cross Country Championships are going to be some fun when the best of the best collide Nov. 4 on the rolling hills of Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. Last year, the early races started in a morning fog and the runners emerged like some faraway scene from “Chariots of Fire.”

It’s a chalked line on a golf course, made for fan support. I get it, meet officials want friends and family to see the biggest race of the season. But somewhere in the back of my mind, cross country is run in the country, where pavement ends and the West begins.

But it’s all good. Great runners thrive in this environment and we’re going to see some good ones. Moses Lake will be represented by five competitors climbing the hill to greatness.

I had a chance to watch Carlie Gregg run her first 4A state championship race last year. She went in with top 10 finishes in every meet during the regular season as a freshman. But this was a new level, with new challenges. As the runners crossed the finish line and the sun broke through to illuminate their efforts, Carlie was still out on the course working. She finished 130-something, maybe, with that 1,000-mile stare.

I already knew, but our conversation had to start somewhere, “Ya get boxed?” With that many runners, you have to get out ahead of the mob or suffer log jam backwash all the way to the end. Carlie’s a frontrunner and she learned a little something that day, and I’m guessing it doesn’t happen again this year.

Gregg is going back, a year older, a year stronger, a year smarter. But this time she’s not going to be the only girl from Moses Lake. The Chiefs’ young guns are coming and they’ll run the hills with the best runners in Washington state.

Yep, three sophomores, Camielle Carpenter, Mikayla Cooper and Gregg – the kids are alright. Carpenter is in her first season of varsity cross country and is coming off a ninth-place finish at the district meet. Cooper stepped up in a quality district field last week as well to earn her first race in the show.

For the Chiefs’ guys, it’s old hat and they’ll use a little of that experience gained a year ago. Zach Owens has been the frontrunner for the Chiefs all season, but Joshua Cooper has been on his shoulder every step of the way. It’s the last dance for Owens, the Chiefs senior, and he intends to make those summer miles pay off. Both Cooper and Owens were in the top 10 racing against the

Eisenhower lads at districts. Going head-to-head with Ike makes everyone tougher.

It’s game on, man, and that’s the beauty of cross country. It doesn’t matter if you live in Los Angeles or Mo Lake. Start the clock, stop the clock, whatta ya got?

Rodney Harwood is a sport s writer with the Columbia Basin Herald and can be reached at rharwood@columbiabasinherald.com

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