Five points separated the Tahoma High School boys cross country team from a state title in 2014, and even though coach Jeff Brady did not consider last year’s third-place finish a loss, he did admit that coming so close served as something of a springboard to winning the Class 4A state championship this year.
Bolstered by a pair of seniors, Graeme Schroder in third place and Keegan Fitzpatrick in ninth, Tahoma ran away with the 4A title with a low score of 79 points, easily outdistancing surprising Bellarmine Prep, which placed second with 102.
Bellarmine’s Jack Yearian gave his team a huge leg up by pulling away from the field in the final half-mile to win the individual title.
“It’s not that we felt like we lost last year,” Brady said. “It was so close, and that fueled us for this year.”
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The Tahoma-Bellarmine one-two finish, combined with Gig Harbor’s state title last year, pretty much completes a shift in the 4A cross country balance of power in the state, away from Spokane and Yakima to the West Central District.
Yakima’s Eisenhower placed third Saturday with 121 points, while Ferris of Spokane was fourth with 139. After more than 20 years of dominance by the east side of the state, West Central District teams have won four of the last five 4A titles.
“The training has caught up,” Brady said. “And the coaches are getting better. And having Gig Harbor and Bellarmine in the league means you get pushed every week.”
After a junior track season in which he won state 4A titles in the 1,600 and the 3,200, Yearian was considered by most observers to be a heavy favorite to win his first cross country title. But the Bellarmine senior seemed surprised when he won.
“I knew I was one of the top guys,” Yearian said. “But I couldn’t tell you before the race that I was going to win it. My main focus was to keep in contact.”
“We ran great today,” Bellarmine coach Keith Wren said. “Of course, only scoring four people (because Yearian only scored a single point) doesn’t hurt at all.”
“I’m really happy for my teammates,” Yearian said as Bellarmine junior Cameron Wyan exited the chute in 15th place to earn an individual medal. “I run every day, but so does everyone else here. It really puts a smile on your face to know that all the work has paid off.”
Lincoln High sophomore James Mwaura was a little disappointed in his eighth-place finish in the 3A boys’ race. But his time of 15:38 in the fastest, deepest race of the day was the fourth-fastest time run by a nonsenior all day, and he was the fastest sophomore.
Mwaura was in a leading group of six runners who passed the mile mark in 4:45.
“I thought we were going out in about five minutes,” Mwaura said. “I’m not sure what happened then.”
What happened? The pack stayed together until North Central’s Justin Janke surged at the mile-and-a-quarter mark. Janke continued to pull away as the trailing pack broke apart and spread out. He won by 16 seconds in 15:02, the widest margin of victory and the fastest time of the day, to lead his team to its 11th consecutive state 3A title.
The best Puget Sound area finish in the girls’ meet was Tahoma’s seventh-place finish in the 4A race, led by sophomore Glenda Glover, who placed 30th in 19:09.