With rain and 50 mile per hour wind punishing the open expanse of Spokane Valley’s Plantes Ferry Park last Saturday, Colville cross country standouts Megan Lee and Kevin Carpenter took the opportunity to punch their tickets to the Washington’s State Championship. While it was expected that Carpenter, a senior, would make his fourth and final trip to Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Club, it was Lee who shocked the field, running a personal course record on her way to an eye-opening third place finish.
Coming into the District race, Lee was ranked 13th among Great Northern League women.
According to CHS assistant coach Dale Wilson, “With only ten slots set aside for State, her (Megan’s) chances of moving on were, at least on paper, slim. However, somebody forgot to tell Megan she was supposed to finish on the outskirts of Pasco.”
CHS head coach Dean Fischer was also pleasantly surprised by a cross-country runner who has made phenomenal progress in a short time. In short—Lee is a natural.
A ‘Wow’ moment
“Megan’s run was a WOW moment,” Fischer said. “We have known since the first day Megan showed up to practice back in August that she was a special young woman, with a talent for running. But, as a junior entering her first running campaign, we also knew she would have a huge learning curve. Well, I guess she learns as fast as she runs. Her race today was intelligent, controlled and athletically exceptional.
“She was courageous to move ahead of the girls who had beaten her through the season…only 10 qualified for State. She just did it in dominant style.”
With parents, relatives and friends braving the elements, Lee bolted cleanly from the start line. At mile one, District favorites, McCall Skay, West Valley, and East Valley’s Brittany Aquino could barely see the rest of the field in their rear view mirrors.
Both Skay and Aquino are on the short list of favorites to claim the 2013 State women’s title.
Meanwhile, in the thick of the chase pack, Lee rambled by the first milepost, running sixth. By mile two, she had moved into fourth place and was looking strong. Her eventual 20.51 broke her personal course record, set just two weeks earlier, by over two-minutes.
“In cross-country, a two-minute PR is incredible, almost unheard of at this level,” Fischer marveled. “The best part is she has not peaked! I know she has a better race left in her. I am sure she is going to do very well next weekend (State Championship). We have a week to prepare and I know Megan will be ready.”
Back to Pasco
Meantime, in the men’s event, it was Colville senior speedster Kevin Carpenter coming into the day anointed as a favorite. After a 2012 trip to the State podium, Carpenter has run consistently among the State’s best 2A harriers this season. But with the wind howling, and a slick, wet course underfoot, the door was wide open for anything to happen.
At the gun, Carpenter moved to the front of the race, chased by the East Valley duo of Chad Stevens and Scott Kopczynski and West Valley’s Kylar Ovnicek.
All three boys, along with Carpenter, are considered front-runners at this weekend’s State competition. After several lead changes, it was Stevens and Kopczinki that made a move at the two-mile mark. With no one answering their challenge, the East Valley duo rolled on to post a one-two finish, with both runners crossing the finish at 16:13, with the nod going to Stevens.
Just off the winner’s pace, it was West Valley’s Ovnicek clipping Carpenter over the final thousand meters in 16:35. Carpenter finished his day in fourth place with a solid 16:35. Summing up Carpenter’s day, coach Fischer said, “Being a District Champion is great, but in today’s race, considering the weather, it is more important to just get through, place in the top ten and avoid any injuries. Next week Kevin will have his opportunity to run wild at the big dance.”
Fischer said that Carpenter didn’t follow the race plan of staying just behind the leaders that had beaten him during the season and let them break some tough, gusty winds.
“After mile 1.5, he took the lead and by mile 2.2, had relinquished it,” Fischer recalled of Carpenter’s race. “His form fell apart with 800 to go, but Kevin was able to hold on for a good fourth place finish. We’ll be working on a little more control this week for the State race.”
**See full story in the November 6 edition of the Statesman Examiner**