In 2011, Mount Rainier High’s Jordan McPhee had it free and easy. She was nearly unbeatable at any race longer than a few city blocks – in cross country or during track and field.
Part of her three 4A titles was a state cross-country triumph in Pasco, capping an undefeated sophomore fall season.
Then along came Camas High’s Alexa Efraimson, considered the next distance-racing dynamo this state has seen. Besides an unmatched desire to win, she has superb speed and stamina.
That is why the 4A girls showdown Saturday at the Westside Classic – the West Central/Southwest District cross-country championships – at the American Lake Golf Course in Lakewood was so intriguing. Which standout would take a 1-up lead?
On a cold, rainy day, covering a soft, muddy 5-kilometer course, Efraimson did – and impressively by winning the girls district title in 17 minutes, 52 seconds.
It was only the fourth-fastest mark in this meet’s history at this venue behind Jefferson’s Kenna Patrick (17:40 in 2006), Gig Harbor’s Alyssa Andrews (17:45 in 2008) and Bellarmine Prep’s Brie Felnagle (17:50 in 2004). But considering those girls posted their times on a less-challenging layout – and not under the miserable conditions of Saturday – Efraimson’s showing was equally dominant.
And, oh by the way – Efraimson is ranked 11th in the country in girls high school cross country.
“I just know my intensity is a lot higher than last year,” said Efraimson, a sophomore. “Of course, that is what I look forward to in races, someone pushing me so I can race the best of me.”
At the halfway point Saturday, Efraimson and McPhee were neck and neck. And coming down one of the steepest hills on the course, Efraimson pulled away.
“I kind of let her go,” McPhee said.
Handed just her second career loss at a cross country race in Washington – both standouts lost to North Central’s Katie Knight at the Richland Invitational this month – McPhee is going through a bit of an adjustment period.
“It is definitely a different mentality when you … lose. You have to keep pushing yourself more and it takes a lot more to get back out there than it does when you keep winning,” McPhee said.
“I had it so nice last year winning it all. It is different. And I am still trying to get used to it.”
Knowledge … now speed: Two years ago, Wolfgang Beck couldn’t beat any of his Gig Harbor High teammates in a sprint. Now, he is one of the best race closers in the state.
Beck chased down Battle Ground’s Mark Tedder with 1,000 meters to go, and kicked it into another gear in capturing the Class 4A boys crown in 15:33.2.
“I have started to get my sprint legs,” said Beck, who won the Narrows 4A title 11 days ago. “But it is kind of a mental thing. You’ve got to be patient in cross country.
“I am faster than most. There are few who could beat me in a sprint now in distance (running). And it is something that gives me confidence when I am out there racing.”
Tahoma (93 points) edged meet favorite Gig Harbor (96) for the 4A boys district team championship.
Next man up: The Charles Wright Academy boys have finished in the top five at the 1A state meet eight times in the past decade – with back-to-back titles in 2003-04.
And the Tarriers are expected to be in the mix this season. With 101 points, they edged Lynden Christian (104) and Meridian (105) for the WCD crown Saturday. Impressively, top-ranked Charles Wright eked out a close win without No. 1 runner Travis Hensley (knee). Ruben Riordan was the Tarriers’ top finisher in third (16:26.9), followed by David Goldstone in fourth (16:29.5).
“Even our two alternates were really close to making it on the team,” Riordan said. “I think we have enough depth our on our team that we will still be able to pull through (at the state meet).”Todd Milles: 253-597-8442 email@example.com blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles