Luke Schilter’s freshman year, it was Asotin’s Chandler Teigen that crossed the finish line first at the Class 1B/2B state cross country meet in Pasco. Schilter finished second, 25 seconds later.
Schilter’s sophomore year, it was Teigen again. Teigen was two years older, with more miles on him — this time, Schilter finished less than eight seconds behind.
“My coaches said, ‘Stick to him. Be like a tick and don’t let go,’ ” Schilter said. “So I did. I stuck with him until the last 200 (meters), then he got me.”
Schilter’s junior year, with Teigen having graduated, he was the undisputed front-runner until race day, when flu-like symptoms slowed him. He was congested the night before the race, and said he threw up prior to the start.
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“I really wanted that first place, but also to run for my team. I wasn’t just going to leave them out there,” Schilter said.
The Navigators won their second consecutive 2B state title that day — fourth in the program’s history, a classification record — but Schilter finished second, again.
Pale and struggling, he appeared on his way to his first title, leading College Place’s Kenneth Rooks until the course’s final hill. Rooks passed Schilter near the crest with about 200 meters to go.
Schilter collapsed as he exited the finishing chute seven seconds behind Rooks for his third runner-up finish in as many years.
Now a senior at Northwest Christian High School in Lacey, Schilter has one more chance to capture that individual state title that has continually eluded him.
“That’s definitely a goal of his,” Northwest Christian coach Larry Weber said. “You can’t control outcomes all the time, but he doesn’t have excuses — zero. Anybody in his position would want to go for a state championship. He certainly wants to do that.”
Weber said Schilter should be in the “best shape of his life” by the state meet this season, and is well ahead of where he was in his training at this time last season.
“It’s more progressive each year, he adds a little bit, gets stronger,” Weber said.
Two weeks after last year’s state meet, Schilter rebounded with a 12th-place finish at the Nike BorderClash, a 5,000-meter race that features top runners from Washington and Oregon.
This season, he won his fourth consecutive divisional title at the annual Capital Invite — he’s the first runner in the history of the invitational to win four straight races.
He took third last weekend at the University of Washington’s Sundodger Invitational in Seattle, which included high school runners from California, Idaho and Canada.
Fourteen first-place finishes during his career in various invitationals and championship meets — he’s the three-time reigning champion of the 2B Pacific League and District IV championship meets — have attracted Division I programs like Boise State, Gonzaga, Portland and Washington State, two of which are nationally ranked.
“I feel quite a bit stronger,” Schilter said. “I’ve been doing more base work during the offseason to get in shape. I do more speed work. I’m starting with a bigger base.”
Weber said if Schilter stays healthy this season, he has a good opportunity to capitalize his senior year. He said Schilter is more focused than ever.
“He runs really, really hard, he gives it his all — that’s the best way to frame it,” Weber said. “That’s hard to do in running. To be mentally tough and to push through, but he’s good at it.”
Schilter said he isn’t presently thinking about that one first-place finish he has yet to collect — he’ll revisit that in November.
“I think about my time goals, and why I should push myself, and my coaches and teammates during races,” he said. “I expect them to give me their all, so why would I do any less?”