Cross country: Vikings go fourth to earn trophy

November 6, 2011 by  

PASCO, Wash. — Early in the season, Selah’s boys seemed far removed from their best state cross country finish in three decades.

As the state meet loomed, coach Rick Becker grew concerned about the team’s approach and attitude. As he put it, “There were questions about dedication and loyalty.”

Becker wanted his boys to think about the coming season, where they wanted to go and how they would get there. “I locked them in a room and went home,” he said.

Ellensburg's Thatcher Montgomery and Selah's Brad Kahn compete near the finish of the 2A cross country state championship Saturday, Nov. 5, 2011 in Pasco, Wash. (Andy Sawyer/Yakima Herald-Republic)



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The next day, he heard what came out of it: “Their goal was to win league, district, regional and make the top four at state,” he said

Check, check, check and — Saturday at the Class 2A state meet — check.

Senior Brad Kahn, junior Matt Schwittay and freshman Matt Schrenk led the way as the Vikings grabbed a fourth-place trophy, Selah’s first cross-country hardware since the early 1980s, according to Becker. Selah’s team result highlighted a strong showing by Yakima Valley runners against stiff statewide competition at Sun Willows Golf Course.

Leading local individuals was Ellensburg’s Jeffrey Ott, whose seventh-place finish in 15 minutes, 46 seconds over the 5,000-meter course marked a personal best for both place and time at state. His teammates just missed a state trophy, finishing in fifth — one place and 12 points behind Selah.

“We ran well,” said Ellensburg coach Jeff Hashimoto. “This was our best race of the season.” He was especially pleased with Ott’s final cross-country race in an Ellensburg uniform. “You can’t ask for more than a PR at state,” he said.

Ott ran a controlled race, though with a 5:02 first mile, perhaps not as controlled as he would have liked. He was about 10th at that point and moved up from there. “I wanted to start out a little slow and move it up,” he said. “I felt good and kept going.”

Farther back, though not far apart, were the Selah runners. None made the top 16 that lands runners on the state-meet podium: Kahn was 23rd in 16:27 seconds, Schwittay 28th in 16:34 and Schrenk 44th in 16:48. Senior Cameron Ford and junior Ben Hoffman rounded out the scoring five in 17:03 (62nd) and 17:10 (70th). But their 43-second spread was the second lowest of the meet, only two seconds shy of state-champion Lindbergh. That, said Becker, was the key.

“They are so close,” he said. “They’re a tight-knit group. They feed off each other.”

That early-season get-together in the room led to Saturday’s gathering at the state podium, where they hoisted their fourth-place trophy. “This is what we were hoping for,” said a satisfied coach.

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