Nelson's season-best paces Wa-Hi harriers

Aaron Nelson tops other Big Nine runners at the cross country meet, but Wa-Hi still falls to Ike.

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Wa-Hi's Rachel Nelson (center) runs beneath a changing mantle of fall and stays close to the course guide (on bicycle). An Eisenhower runner paces Nelson (right) during Friday's cross country meet at Fort Walla Walla. Nelson led the Blue Devil girls with a third place finish.

WALLA WALLA - This one went according to script in Columbia Basin Big Nine Cross-Country action Thursday at Fort Walla Walla Park.

The state 4A No. 1 ranked Eisenhower boys cross country team was as good as advertised as the Cadets claimed the CBBN 4A crown with a 21-36 win over Wa-Hi and a 22-38 win over Wenatchee.

The No. 1 CBBN-ranked boys harrier not only won the boys race but set a season-best mark as Wa-Hi's Aaron Nelson posted a 15:12 time over the 5,000 meter course.

On the girls side, the Cadets downed Wenatchee 26-30, and out-distanced the Blue Devils 18-41.

Three of the top six CBBN female harriers ran and finished as expected. Ike's Mayra Chavez, who came in with a league-leading 18:30, ran to first place in 19:23. No. 3, Ike's Berenice Penaloza, ran second in 19:23. Wa-Hi's Rachel Nelson, who held the league's sixth best time, was third in 19:42.

"Eisenhower is really tough," said Wa-Hi coach Mike Locati. "They (the boys) ran extremely well. They would have had to have an off day and we would've had everybody come through in order to win."

Aaron Nelson led from the out-set in the boys run. Nelson, Wenatchee's Jacob Smith, and Ike's Timothy Cummings led the pack up the hill to the amphitheater on the first pass.

Smith was hanging with Nelson as they began their second trek up the hill as the two had separated from the pack.

"My goal is to break 15 in the 5K which is just under 4:50 pace (per mile)," Nelson said. "I needed to run a 9:40 two-mile. I accomplished that today."

Nelson had opened a seven second lead over Smith by the time the runners re-entered the park for the second pass, and Nelson ran against the clock from that point on.

"I knew that some of those guys (Smith and Cummings) would be with me, at least for the first mile," Nelson said. "That second lap, I really hammered it to hold pace because they were going to fall off pace. As the race goes on, you have to up your pace to maintain your tempo. It worked pretty well today."

Nelson's season-best time was a 24-second victory over the second-place Smith. The 15:12 is the second fastest state time this season, behind only Olympia's Nate Brennand's 15:09.

"We know the course pretty well," Nelson said. "You know where to make your moves, and as you race, you see those happen. It's really cool because you visualize it. Then you get there and it happens just the way you imagined it would."

Ike took five of the top nine spots to cement the league title.

"Ike got us," Nelson said. "They've been solidly the No. 1 team in the state all year and haven't been challenged."

J.P. Wolpert was the next Blue Devil to finish, in eighth at 16:26. Austin Morgan was 13th, followed by Zachariah Lapier in 17th, and Greggory Heller in 18th. Wa-Hi earned a split in 4A action with a 57-74 win over the Panthers.

JP (Wolpert) was right behind their (Ike's) one and two," Locati said. "We knew he could be there and was gaining on them through two miles, then he said his side started hurting.

"Aaron ran great," Locati said. "He has absolutely asserted himself as the No.-1 runner in the Big Nine."

On the girls side, Rachel Nelson, Chavez and Penaloza set the pace from the opening gun.

As they came back from the first pass through the amphitheater, they were in a dead heat.

"I was trying to stick with them," said Rachel Nelson. "Then they made a move and I tried to go with them, but didn't have the energy today."

By the second trip through the Fort Walla Walla gates, Chavez and Penaloza had opened a several-second lead over Nelson.

The Ike duo came home in a near photo finish, with Chavez edging out Penaloza as both were timed in 19:23.

Nelson finished third in 19:42.

"It's been fun running here, and I enjoyed the course, but I was hoping to do a little bit better," Nelson added. "It's hot out and I just did the best I could. I'll get them (Chavez and Penaloza) next week (at the district meet), and at state. I'll just mentally stick with it and tell myself I can do it."

Freshman Hannah Hampson was the next Blue Devil finisher in 16th. Fellow freshman Catherine Feistner came home 19th, Jocelyn Vargas was next in 21st, and Gabrielle Anderson finished 31st.

"Rachel ran really well," Locati said. "She hung with the two gals from Eisenhower. That she can continue to run well was a pleasant thing as we continue into the post season. She's gotta get out there and go after it, but she has the capabilities.

"And the girls team, I just love them," Locati said. "They are out there and competing hard. Hopefully, we can continue to improve and knock off a team or two (at district) that beat us during the regular season."

The Blue Devils travel to Yakima for the district meet Thursday.

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