Aaron Nelson, Rachel Nelson first as Wa-Hi harriers take fourth in Ellensburg

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ELLENSBURG - Wa-Hi registered individual wins on both the boys and girls sides here Saturday during the Ellensburg Invitational cross country meet at Irene Rheinhart Park.

Aaron Nelson and J.P. Wolpert finished 1-2 to lead the boys to a second-place finish in a 15-team field, and Rachel Nelson was first in the girls event as Wa-Hi finished fourth out of 12 teams.

Ellensburg's boys and Ephrata's girls were crowned as team champions of the meet.

Both Nelson and Wolpert finished the 2.35 mile course under the course record. Nelson set a new standard with a mark of 11:48 while Wolpert posted a time of 11:53.

"Both of them looked very strong and ran under control the whole race," Wa-Hi coach Mike Locati said.

Austin Morgan finished eighth for Wa-Hi in 12:38.

"Our top three boys right now can compete with any three in the state," Locati said. "It's a good place for us to be right now. We just need them to stay healthy and have fun!"

Other Blue Devils boys finishers were Zack Lapier (21st, 13:14), Blake Gerling (27th, 13:29), Ty Hafen (33rd, 13:39), and Sean Hollenbeck (38th, 13:43).

"We were unable to pull out the victory against Ellensburg, who has a deeper top five," Locati said.

Wa-Hi was without two of their varsity runners, Sean Newcomb and Gregg Heller.

"The boys competed well but it wasn't enough today," Locati said. "We have to pick up the slack on the bottom half of the varsity team if we want to accomplish the goals we have set for the season. I know they can do it and it is early in the season, but we have to start now."

Rachel Nelson won the girls invite with a time of 14:34.

"Rachel ran a smart and conservative race," Locati said. "It was a good early season time and a great way to start the season. Most importantly for her right now is to enjoy running and the team."

Other Wa-Hi girls competing were Hannah Hampson (27th, 17:01), Catherine Feistner (32nd, 17:11), Jocelyn Vargas (33rd, 17:13), McKelle Wilwand (36th, 17:15), and Ashley Taylor (46th, 17:38).

Gabby Anderson did not finish because of a battle with hip pain, Locati said.

"Our girls varsity team is closely packed together," Locati said. "I was pleased to see a large improvement today from all of the girls from our squad meet on Monday. If we can continue to battle together and improve we will do well."

Wa-Hi competes in a league meet Tuesday at Kennewick's Hansen Park at 3:30.

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