On Saturday numerous athletes will be meeting in Boise to compete in the Northwest Regional, which qualifies runners for the NXN meet in Portland. Aside from the competition the runners will also face the challenge of the Eagle Island, which offers an uneven terrain a sandy beach plus a stiff hill, which must be traversed twice. Although the goofy team names, while failing to include the individual members, make it more likely to overlook someone, here is a cursory look at some of the athletes to watch.
Leading the girls’ parade are Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak, who just annexed the Washington 3A title in a record time of 17:03. Katie Knight is usually challenging Neale and the 3A champion in 2011 finished second here last year as well as last week. If both Katy and Amy-Eloise are on it should be a scintillating race but there are a number of other runners quite capable of winning including Alexa Efraimson, who just claimed the 4A championship in a fine 17:34. The trio will be confronted with a formidable cast from Oregon, who recorded some major marks of their own in Eugene. Sara Tsai of South Eugene is the 6A champion after her brilliant 17:42 and Oregon will also be represented by Paige Rice of St. Mary’s Academy, the 2011 Oregon champion, and Erin Clark of South Eugene, who finished behind Rice last weekend.
Washington will also have the services of Glacier Peak runner Katie Bianchini, who finished third in 3A with 17:58. The Kamiakin girls should be a force in the team race and are led by Megan Beauchene, who placed fourth at State in 3A & Michelle Fletcher.
Another likely contender is Paige Gilchrist, who won the Montana AA title in 17:47. Idaho 5A State Champion Emily Hamlin (18:09) will also be likely to be near the front. Piper McDonald of Summit is running as an individual after missing the State meet and, if healthy, she should be in the mix. Others to watch (no particular order) from Oregon are Kennedy Allen of David Douglas, MaryKate McGuire of Dallas, Erin Gregoire of Beaverton, Maggie Coleman of Hermiston & Ellie Kallgren of Jesuit. Washington will offer Brittany Aquino, who finished third in 2A, Elizabeth Oosterhout of Tahoma, who will lead that noteworthy team after her 9th place finish in 4A plus Alissa Pudlitzke of Camas, who placed 4th in 4A. She and her Camas teammates would appear to be the team to beat although St. Mary’s Academy, Jesuit, Tahoma & Boise plus Coeur d’ Alene & Bozeman. Other Idaho runners to watch are Presli Hutchinson of Highland, who was 4th in 5A, Lila Klopfenstein (12th), Sierra Manzer (14th here in 2011) and Coeur d’ Alene runners Josie Brown and Punky Duran, who placed 2nd & 5th respectively at State. Jenette Northey will represent Alaska and she has placed as high as second in the state.
There are numerous omissions from the guys’ field including Andrew Gardner, Patrick Gibson & Poli Baltazar, Dillon Quintana & Tom Bradley, who will all go for the big prize of Foot Locker, yet Washington will still present a solid squad especially with Joe Hardy of Seattle Prep, who won the 3A championship last week. Kai Wilmot of Northwest did not race last week for the powerful North Central team, and, if he is healthy, he can be counted on being near the lead. There are some likely challengers especially Elijah Armstrong, who looks strong enough to be one of the rare three-time male qualifiers at Foot Locker. His one off day this fall was at Firman, where he lost to hardy & Wilmot and he will be out to avenge that loss. While I am looking at Idaho we should add Dwain Stucker, who won the 5A title edging Thomas Rigby as both were credited with 15:42. Sam Levora of Sandpoint placed second to Armstrong in 15:49 and should be in the hunt for a trip to the mud of Portland.
Washington will feature the second through fourth place runners in the 4A race: Wolfgang Beck of Gig Harbor (15:16), Colby Gilbert of Skyview (15:21) & Sumner Goodwin of Lewis & Clark (15:24) is capable of making things more than interesting. Logan Carroll and Tristan Peloquin are normally not that far behind Beck, so their presence should be felt on race day. Kamiakin will contribute Austin Oser & Ahmed Ibrahim to the effort. Mark Tedder of Battle Ground is another runner to watch.
Oregon can boast two-time 5A champion Travis Neuman, who had the fastest time in Oregon on Saturday. His Summit team mates Mathew Maton & Eric Alldritt were 2nd & 6th at State, so they can be expected to be in the mix. Hermiston will add Alejandro Cisneros (3rd), Eduardo Juarez (5th) & Jose Macias (5th) from the 5A race. Strong shots to qualify belong to Beaverton’s Dan Oekerman, who was second in 6A with 15:48) and former State champion Kyle Thompson, who came in third with 15:54. Nick Obletz of Oregon Episcopal won the 3A title and will also be one to reckon with on Saturday.
Montana will send Adam Peterman, who is the state’s second best male runner (15:17) plus Bozeman’s Jason Holmes, who finished 4th in 15:52. Wyoming champion Ricky Faure will be another to watch Saturday.
The team race is anyone’s guess after North Central gets the favorite’s nod. Bozeman is the Montana State champion, while Central Catholic and Summit reign in the 6A & 5A Oregon divisions. Jesuit of Portland also has a solid squad and should give some teams fits while Kamiakin, Gig Harbor and Nathan Hale could make waves if they can pack their runners into the chute. Unfortunately no team can pack it in like North Central, which also boasts power up front. The Eagle Island course itself needs to be respected and runners, who expend too much energy early can be in a world of hurt down the stretch, so it could very well be the team that can run within itself & still remain close early, which can look to second.