Blue Devil boys run to second at District

Aaron Nelson wins Districts and Rachel Nelson's second place paces the girls to fifth overall.

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YAKIMA - The Wa-Hi cross country teams ran at the District meet on the three-mile Franklin Park course here Thursday, with Aaron Nelson winning the District title and Rachel Nelson taking second.

Eisenhower won both the boys and girls team titles with 43 points apiece. Wa-Hi's boys were second behind the Cadets with 49, and the girls were fifth with 116.

"It was truly exciting all day long to watch as everyone continued to have great races," Wa-Hi coach Mike Locati said. "It was one of those pinch-me days where you couldn't believe what was happening. Race after race, the kids were just running great."

Aaron Nelson finished in 15:15.59, ahead of Wenatchee's Jacob Smith in 15:31.10.

"Aaron is just clicking right now," Locati said. "He was so controlled today as it showed in his splits: 5:11, 5:07, 4:57. This is a difficult course. It's a three-mile that runs like a 5K, and he tore it up. Negative splitting itself is difficult to do, let alone on this course.

"His performance was followed up by a fifth-place finish from J.P. Wolpert and ninth place by Austin Morgan."

Wolpert finished in 15:59.65, with Morgan finishing the course in 16:28.33.

The top three Wa-Hi boys' finishes put the Blue Devils ahead of Ike, 15-18, but Ike's fourth and fifth runners bested Wa-Hi's to earn the District team win.

"Our 4-5 guys, Sean Newcomb and Gregg Heller, ran a great race, but Ike is so strong," Locati said.

Newcomb finished 16th in 16:59.27, and Heller 18th in 17:05.68.

Sean Hollenbeck (23rd, 17:19.07) and Zachariah Lapier (29th, 17:38.11) rounded out the Wa-Hi boys' effort.

"I am incredibly proud of the guys and their effort today," Locati said. "It was a great race and confidence builder going into the regional race next weekend. If we get performances like this next weekend, we should fare well.

"On the girls' side, it was just as exciting as the girls also bested themselves from the season's previous runs," he said.

Rachel Nelson finished in 18:38.00, behind Eisenhower's Mayra Chavez's 18:14.52.

"She ran a great race today," Locati said of Nelson's effort. "Her confidence is strengthening as we enter the later part of the season. I'm so excited for her. I can see the excitement on her face - it's catchy."

Hannah Hampson was the next Wa-Hi girl across the line, finishing in 18th in 20:49.98.

Jocelyn Vargas was next in 29th in 21:53.54, Catherine Feistner 31st in 22:13.71 and Mckelle Willwand was 38th in 23:21.48.

"With a breakout performance also by Hannah Hampson, the girls improved their times substantially," Locati said.

Wa-Hi's Blake Gerling also won the boys' junior varsity District title in the race preceding the varsity races, "destroying the field by 39 seconds," Locati said.

"I am so proud of all the runners on the team," he said. "Both the boys and girls teams had their best showing of the year, with almost everyone competing having a season's-best race. I wish we had more season left."

All-conference teams were also announced, with Aaron Nelson, Wolpert and Morgan making the boys' First Team, and Newcomb and Heller Honorable Mention.

Rachel Nelson earned girls' First Team honors, with Hampson named Honorable Mention.

The Regional meet is Oct. 30 at Walla Walla Point Park in Wenatchee.

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