Royal’s Kay Lester leads Columbia Basin contingent at WIAA state cross country championships

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  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin HeraldRoyal senior Kay Lester separates herself from the pack during Saturday's 1A state cross country championships at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

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    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin HeraldMoses Lake senior Zach Owens (826) runs with the pack during the first mile of Saturday's 4A state cross country race at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

  • Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin HeraldRoyal senior Kay Lester separates herself from the pack during Saturday's 1A state cross country championships at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

  • 1

    Rodney Harwood/Columbia Basin HeraldMoses Lake senior Zach Owens (826) runs with the pack during the first mile of Saturday's 4A state cross country race at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

PASCO — Royal senior Kay Lester came through the gate into the staging area after finishing 22nd in 19 minutes, 45.90 seconds in the Class 1A girls race at the WIAA state cross country championships Saturday at Sun Willow Golf Course.

She found a place tucked away from the chaos of it all at the far end and hunkered down, head bowed as she collected herself. A lot of people would have been pleased with 22nd overall in the 152-runner field, but the 5-foot-7 Royal City standout went into the meet with the big dreams of making it to the podium.

“I knew I’d put in the work. I worked hard in the summer, during the season, then I get here and I don’t place. That was the most disappointing part,” said Lester, who intends to run in college. “I put it on the line, I know that. As far as I know, I PR’ed on this course, but I’m not satisfied.

“My goal was to place in my last race. I’ve been around long enough to where I know a lot of the girls that placed here today and I really wanted to be there. But I’ll come back with a vengeance for track.”

Lester came through the loop at the bottom of the course a few seconds off the lead pack as Alyce Harlan (Nooksack Valley), Macenna Hansen (Northwest) and Lizzy Shaw (Riverside) pushed the pace back up the hill.

“My race strategy was to go out hard and stay with the front-runners. I felt really strong in my pre-race warm up. I felt really good and confident,” Lester said. “By the two-mile, I felt great mentally, but physically I could feel it going.

“The lead group picked up the pace a lot at the second-mile marker and I didn’t go with them. I know now I should have gone with ‘em.”

The 4A boys championship was decided by a sprinter’s lean at the finish line. Camas’ Daniel Maton and Ryan Kline of Central Valley went stride-for-stride down the hill in the final 400 meters to the finish line. Maton made one last lunge in the end to edge Kline, but his spent legs gave way and he tumbled across in what was nearly a dead heat.

Moses Lake senior Zach Owens ran his last race, breaking the top 100 to finish 95th in 16:37.70. Chiefs teammate Joshua Cooper (16:45.70) was 107th.

“It was so physical. We went out super quick in the first 200 meters. There were people pushing my back and I was pushing them just to stay in position,” Owens said. “We were pretty congested through the first mile and a quarter. I was able to pick it up in the last mile, unfortunately it was too late.

“This was my last race, and to tell you the truth, I don’t know how I feel. I just hope people are encouraged by us and want to continue the Chiefs cross country tradition.”

Said Cooper, “My goal was to run the first mile in 5:30 and negative splits,” he said. “I came through in 5:18, which was a little fast, and my last mile was in 5:29. I was close to my plan. I did the best I could and walk away feeling good about this race.”

The Chiefs girls team qualified three sophomores in the field. Two of them had never competed at this level before, but they were all smiles when it was all said and done. Camille Carpenter (19:39.30) finished 73rd in the 161-runner field. Carlie Gregg (20:02.60) was 108th and Mikayla Cooper (20.07.60) was 110th.

“This was the biggest field I’ve ever run, way bigger than (the Nike Invite). It was a fast pace, but it was good,” said Carpenter, who hasn’t run cross country since middle school. “I just tried to block out everything and race. I love running down hill, so in the last 800 there were some girls from our league, as I went past I tried to bury them. I feel good about finishing in the top 70 in my first state race.”

Gregg learned from her experience a year ago. She went into Saturday’s race stronger and more aware and the end result was knocking almost two minutes off last year’s time.

“I knew I had to get out a little faster than I did last year, so I went out hard and was able to settle in and find my spot,” she said. “There were some people I recognized around me. I feel so much better today than I did last year. I think I’ll come back next year.”

Cooper had her game face on, complete with maroon and yellow handprints on her face. She stayed with Gregg most of the way and made a lasting impression in her first state meet.

“It was wild, crazy and it went by real quick,” the Moses Lake sophomore said. “I just wanted to make sure I got the girls in front of me. Once I passed a couple of Eisenhower girls, I looked around for someone else to pass.”

Quincy’s Bryn Heikes (19:44.0) was 26th in the 2A girls race in one of her best performances of the season. Teammate Jane Kennedy (20:20.20) was 45th and Karen Billingsley of Ephrata placed 57th in 20:27.50.

Royal’s Rudy Flores (16:55.90) placed 35th in the 156-runner 1A boys race.

“My goal was to get in with the second group and stay with them,” Flores said. “Today was perfect weather. It was cool and I was ready to run. I didn’t get the goal I wanted, but I ran well today.”

For complete team scores and results, log on to athletic.net under each school’s page for specific classification results.

Moses Lake girls: 73. Camille Carpenter, 19:39.30; 108. Carlie Gregg, 20:02.60; Mikayla Cooper, 20.07.60

Moses Lake boys: 95. Zach Owens, 16:37.70; 107. Joshua Cooper, 16:45.70

2A girls: 26. Bryn Heikes, Quincy, 19:44.0; 45. Jane Kennedy, Quincy, 20:20.20; 57. Karen Billingsley, Ephrata, 20:27.50

2A boys: 93. Kolby Tune, Ephrata, 17:24.50, Ephrata

1A girls: 22. Kay Lester, Royal, 19:45.90; 74. Alma Velasco, Wahluke, 21:05.70; 82. Abigail Delay, Royal, 21:13.50; 117. Jessica Arellano, Wahluke, 22:09.50; 119. Sydney Gilbert, Royal, 22:19.00; 120.

Abigail Wood, Royal, 22:19.30; 130. Briza Mendoza, Wahluke, 22:39.40; 134; Amanda Justo, 22:46.30; 141. Sydney Burke, Royal, 23:15.4; 142. Isabel Quiroz, Royal, 23.31.70.

1A boys: 35. Rudy Flores, Royal, 16:55.90; 42. Yerik Arellano, Wahluke, 17:02.40; 113. Tanu Buck, Wahluke, 18:00.50; 121. Joaquin Meza, 18:05.90

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