INSIDE LOOK: State Cross Country 2011
11/2/2011



WIAA Boys & Girls State Cross Country Championships 2011

Sun Willows Golf Course - Pasco, WA      

Live Blog

  

Entering its 24th consecutive year of hosting the WIAA/Dairy Farmers of Washington/Les Schwab Tires State Cross Country Championships, Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco is once again primed and ready to accommodate 247 schools and 1615 runners on Saturday, Nov. 5.

Tournament Manager since 2003, Le Burns, also Pasco High School’s Athletic Director, has been involved with the event for 23 consecutive years. Burns’ style of managing is to create a community effort. By doing so, Burns relies on the coordination of the Tri-Cities’ three school districts (Pasco, Richland and Kennewick), the City of Pasco, and the Water Follies management team to help make cross country one of the most successful Washington state championships.

Burns also receives support from several key working staff members. John Crawford, a statistician, and Wayne Frank, event assistant, have been providing their assistance for a combined 47 years.

Crawford managed the meet prior to Burns from 1988-2002. Entering his 24th year working the finish line, Crawford provides instant times and updates at the conclusion of each race.

“When 90 runners cross a finish line within a minute, there’s nothing like it” Crawford said. “The fans, all the colors of the schools—it puts a shiver up your back. In no other sport do you see the interaction between players, fans and coaches all mingled together.”

Frank, a competitor in the1968 and 1969 state meets, has provided his services since the meet was moved to the Pasco site. His responsibilities include setting up the course, marking off the half-miles and miles as well as managing the course marshals. Dale Fuller, former Pasco High School cross country and track coach, has been instrumental in setting up the course and managing the finish line helpers as well. They, like many others, continue to be a part of the state meet by returning to work at it every year.

“People from all over the Tri-Cities-area volunteer,” Frank noted. “Alumni even come back to help out and give back to the event. It’s like a family—the fellowship is really quite good.”

Once a six-race meet, the event has evolved to 11 races over time (including the wheelchair race). The course distance has also been modified due to the WIAA classification changes in the state. The first boys meet was held in 1959 at Seattle's Green Lake Park and was a two-mile race.  In 1963 the meet organizers changed the course length to 2.3 miles, and the final invitational was run at three miles. The WIAA sanctioned the first boys state meet in 1969, and ran it at Seattle's Evergreen High School until 1982.  The course length was decreased to 2.5 miles from 1969 to 1977, then returned to three miles in 1978.

While the boys were enjoying their state meet, organizers put together a girls invitational for the 1973 season. The girls invitational was a 1.5 mile meet in Granger in 1973 and 1974, before the WIAA sanctioned the first girls state meet - a 2.0 mile race - at Lake Sammamish Park in 1975.  The girls joined the boys at Evergreen in 1976, running at 2.0 miles from 1976-1979 before joining the boys at 3.0 miles in 1980. From 1980 on, the boys and girls events were at identical locations and course lengths. The race changed to its current format, a 5k course, in 1997.

Sun Willows, which opened in 1959, has hosted the event since 1988. It was originally designed by Robert Muir Graves and was redesigned in 1980. Regardless of the changes, the atmosphere of a cross country race remains the same. On Nov. 5, fans will line the golf course’s rolling fairways, which will once again feel the trampling spikes of runners chasing after state titles.

The top runners to watch out for on the boys side are Anthony Armstrong of 3A Kamiakin, 3A defender Nathan Weitz of Shadle Park, and Andrew Gardner of Mead, 4A runner-up last year. Armstrong has already captured four first-place finishes this season, while Weitz and Gardner have captured two each.

On the girls side, the state returns three of the best girls in the nation with Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak and Katie Knight of North Central, both from the 3A classification, and 1A returning champion Maddie Meyers of Northwest. Neale has captured three first-place finishes this season, while Knight has two and Meyers one.

For more information about the meet visit www.wiaa.com.