WALLA WALLA — Courtney Cox finished third overall here Thursday at Fort Walla Walla in Mid-Columbia Conference cross country action.
Cox’s finish led the Walla Walla High School girls to a 2-2 record in dual meet scoring at the league meet with Kamiakin, Hanford, Richland and Southridge.
Juan Cortez finished sixth in the boys’ varsity race and paced Wa-Hi to a 4-2 mark in dual meet scoring, with Chiawana and Pasco joining the fray for the boys.
Richland won four girls dual meets, including a 27-28 squeaker over Kamiakin.
The Braves took home three wins.
On the boys side, Kamiakin won all six dual matches, with Richland winning five.
“The meet went pretty much as we expected,” Blue Devil coach Mike Locati said. “Kamiakin and Richland, on both the boys and girls side, are very tough. Kamiakin, right now, is in a different league. We’ll just keep pounding away and look to (catch) them.
“You come into a league meet with this type of quality and you’re hoping to run well,” he continued. “Our kids did that.”
In the girls race, Cox and Richland’s Lindsey Bradley broke away at the start to grab the early lead. After the first run up the hill, Bradley had opened a 10-second lead on Cox, but Cox was 10 seconds ahead of the third-place runner.
Bradley continued to pull away, and after the second pass up the hill (approximately 1,800 of the 5,000-meter race), Bradley had moved a minute ahead of Cox, who held second.
But Kamiakin’s Megan Beauchene caught Cox in the last 1,200 meters. Bradley won in 18:16.7, with Beauchene second in 19:10.4, and Cox third in 19:16.4.
“It was pretty good,” Cox said of her run. “I just go off effort. I think it was a tie of my 5K last year just before state.
“Bradley is a very competitive runner,” she said. “I’m a pretty good finisher, but this one was hard because Lindsey was so far out. I couldn’t pace off her and it’s a little tricky going on your own. I like it when Lindsey pushes the pace. It’s nice to have a standard and constantly try to improve.”
“Courtney ran really well,” Locati said of his junior. “Bradley and the top Kamiakin girls are in the top five in the state. Bradley is phenomenal. Courtney just continues to battle. It was hard for her today because she was out there by herself.”
For the Blue Devils, this is the beginning of a march to reach their best by districts.
For Cox, it is a push to improve on last year’s 18th-place state finish.
“We’re trying some new workouts this year that, hopefully, will help me push more,” Cox said. “I’m trying to get within the top 17. As long as I put my all in, I’m not too concerned about the place or time.”
On the boys side, Kamiakin took six of the first 10 places, Richland took three and Cortez broke the Brave-Bomber stranglehold by coming home sixth in 16:31.4.
Kamiakin’s Garrett Kraal won the race in 15:47.2, and Richland’s Michael Williams was second in 15:48.4.
Cortez came off the second hill pass in sixth and maintained to finish five seconds ahead of seventh place.
“That was good as I expected, a top 10,” Cortez said. “I was excited to run today. I kind of followed my strategy, but I passed the guy I was supposed to stay with in the first mile. I was trying to draft off the Richland runner to help drag me across the race, but then I had to go on to Kamiakin and try to hang on.”
On the girls side, Wa-Hi defeated Hanford 22-36, defeated Southridge 21-37, and suffered narrow defeats to Kamiakin (26-29) and to Richland (27-29).
Hannah Hampson finished eighth for Wa-Hi in 20:14.7. Catherine Feistner was 12th in 20:30.7. Jenny Wall was 15th in 20:44.1, and rounding out the five scoring runs was Lea Davidson in 18th in 20:59.3.
Erika Leinweber was the sixth Blue Devil to finish as she followed Davidson home in 19th in 21:02.2.
“We are pretty good,” Cox said. “The last four or five spots (on varsity) are really close (time-wise). That’s what you want.”
For the boys, the Blue Devils defeated Hanford 27-28, Pasco 18-45, Southridge 19-43, and Chiawana 18-44.
Wa-Hi’s two losses came at the feet of Richland 21-37, and Kamiakin 16-43.
Isaac Mata in 13th was the next Blue Devil, after Cortez, to cross the finish line as Mata ran a 17:05.2. Michael Anderson was 21st in 17:59.1. Jacob Leinweber and Blase Wolpert completed the Wa-Hi scoring as Leinweber was 23rd in 18:01.2, and Wolpert was 24th in 18:05.4.
“We’re going to get better as a team,” Cortez said. “Hopefully, we can compete for a district championship.”
Wa-Hi travels to Portland Saturday to run in the Nike Pre-National meet.
“It is a huge race with teams from all across the United States,” Locati said. “It is a very high-quality meet. Anytime you get to run against that competition, it’s going to pull the best out of you, and we want to keep getting better.”