PASCO — As a defending state champion, Eli Kabasenche of Pullman High School is taking a somewhat different approach to his senior year of cross country, meaning today’s state meet isn’t his final race of the year.
Specifically, he has calibrated his training to put him in peak condition for the Nike Cross Nationals a month from now in Portland, Ore.
So he’s not necessarily a sure bet to repeat as boys’ Class 2A champion today in the Washington state meet at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
But don’t count him out either.
The first of 12 races begins at 9:30 a.m., and southeastern Washington will be represented by two complete Pullman teams in 2A and two full Colfax teams in 2B.
The Asotin boys and the Garfield-Palouse girls also will have a full 2B delegation.
Kabasenche broke through for his first state title a year ago on the same 5,000-meter course and served notice he could easily repeat, finishing 24 seconds ahead of the next nonsenior. He followed that with 1,600- and 3,200-meter titles at the state track meet in the spring.
But his best 5K time this year only ranks sixth on the state’s 2A performance list. Pullman coach Allix Potratz-Lee thinks that’s misleading, for reasons that go beyond Kabasenche’s tweaked training schedule.
“The moment you establish yourself as a powerful, dominant runner, it changes how you approach everything, because the target’s on your back now,” she said. “You’re not chasing people as much. People are really hunting you. I feel like he’s dealing with that really well.”
In 2B, the Asotin boys will try to improve on their third-place showing in 2018 while aiming for the Panthers’ 12th’ top-four showing in either gender in the past nine years. AHS coach Tim Gundy said his boys’ have run tightly packed all season.
At the district meet last week, Ian Engledow placed third to lead the Panthers to a boys’ title.
The Asotin girls’ failed to qualify for State as a team for the first time since the school introduced cross country 16 years ago.
“A little bit sad to see that streak go, but I think we’ll be right back at it next year,” said Gundy, who has headed the program for 13 years.
Lily Denham of Asotin qualified as an individual.
Anais Mills of Garfield-Palouse won a district title last week and is ranked fourth on the state 2B performance list.
WASHINGTON STATE CROSS COUNTRY MEET
Qualifiers from southeastern Washington
Boys — Mick Brown
Girls — Asha Campbell, Audrey Cousins, Kylie Franklin, Kelli Heim, Madeline Jones, Nicole Jones, Elly Kunkel, Abigail Walker, Guisima Young.
Boys — Isaac Acosta, Asher Cousins, Brendan Doumit, Abdur Islam, Eli Kabasenche, Kade Kunkel, Jose Najera, Lucian Pendry, Kolby Uhlenkott,
Girls — Lily Denham.
Boys — Ryan Denham, Asher Dykstra, Ian Engledow, William Frye, Mason Nicholas, Tanner Nicholas, Jace Overberg, Hobbs Tieu, Jon Warwick
Girls — Hannah Baerlocher, Anna Cocking, Kaitlyn Cornish, Madison Dingman, Miya Ensley, Isabella Koyama, Emma Miller, Jorja Slate, Madeline Tate
Boys — Ryan Baljo, Tyler Bober, Kyle Dail, Ryan Henning, Joshua Huber, Jackson Perry, Kolby Sisk, Kolby Slate, Dyamin Vanek
Girls — Kennedy Cook, Anais Mills, Jessica Olson, Samantha Snekvik, Laynie Southern.