Helmer Wins STATE Title

Helmer wins title
Jackson senior wins Class 4A boys championship

By Mike Cane
Herald Writer

PASCO - As a particularly massive gust of wind blasted his body, Jeff Helmer experienced a rare moment of uncertainty. Maybe the dream he\'d worked toward since he was in the seventh grade simply wasn\'t meant to be.

\"I started to doubt myself slightly,\" said Helmer, a senior at Jackson High School who held a tenuous lead at the 2-mile mark of the Class 4A state boys cross country race when his confidence withered.

Michael V. Martina / The Herald
Jackson\'s Jeff Helmer won the Class 4A state boys race in 15 minutes, 40 seconds, at the state meet Saturday in Pasco.
But wait, this was just some measly wind. Helmer overcame so much more over the last few years. There were injuries, including a hip problem that slowed him a year ago. There were towering, mind-warping expectations. There was even jealousy from some of the competition.

So in the big picture, a little wind was nothing, and Helmer quickly morphed his moment of doubt into a day of glory during the 2005 State Cross Country Championships at Sun Willows Golf Course.

Helmer pulled away over the final third of the 3.1-mile course and won the 4A state title in 15 minutes, 40 seconds. Kentwood junior Michael Chinchar was second (15:51).

In the finish area, an ecstatic group of supporters embraced Helmer. His fans included current and former teammates, coaches and, of course, Mom and Dad, who received the first post-race hugs.

Helmer, who is considering athletic scholarship offers from Arizona State, Oklahoma State and Oregon, among others, won the 3,200-meter 4A track title last spring. But he said Saturday\'s victory was more special because he craves cross country\'s longer distance and soothing scenery. \"The fall is my favorite season,\" said Helmer, who runs about 90 miles a week. \"I like seeing all the leaves on the ground.\" As one of the top 20 4A finishers, Helmer earned a trip to Border Clash (Nov. 20 in Beaverton, Ore), a meet that pits the best runners from Washington and Oregon. Helmer will also compete at the Foot Locker National Championships next month in San Diego.

After capping the afternoon with his third top-10 showing in four state cross country appearances, Helmer reflected on Saturday\'s turning point. When his faith faltered, he reminded himself to \"Trust your training. Stay strong.\" In the end, his strength was unmatched.

\"I\'ve never felt this good in my life,\" Helmer said.

Eric Hruschka, Helmer\'s coach at Jackson, can certainly relate. Hruschka snared a state cross country title for Lynnwood in 1983. A winner at Spokane\'s Hangman Valley Golf Course, Hruschka said his state title came in similar fashion. Like Helmer, Hruschka made his move over the final mile.

\"You\'re in the club now!\" Hruschka yelled to Helmer in an interview tent near the finish area, referencing Helmer\'s entrance into the state-championship brotherhood.

\"I think he ran within himself,\" Hruschka said of Helmer\'s performance, \"and ran a perfect race today.\" Among other local 4A runners, the Lake Stevens Vikings completed their late-season surge by placing fourth with 162 points (The top four teams receive trophies). It\'s the first trophy for Lake Stevens in at least 31 years, according to co-head coach Cliff Chaffee. Sophomores Joey Bywater (21st, 16:16) and Kyle Van Santen (22nd, 16:22) led the Vikings.

Ferris (57 points) won the team title, followed by Mead (73) and Tahoma (116). Edmonds-Woodway (188) was sixth and Snohomish (245) was ninth.

Also, Mariner junior Dak Riek placed 12th (16:08), marking the best performance by a Marauders runner since 1986 (Brenden Johnson, 11th), according to Mariner coach Dave McFadden. After struggling in the middle of the race, Riek finished with his best kick of the season.