YAKIMA, Wash. — Even after waves of congratulations had swept over her and she was well clear of the finish line, Renelle Christensen couldn’t believe it.
Had that just happened?
Yes, the Davis senior did just win the Columbia Basin Big Nine district cross country title, but the experience felt as though it had happened in another dimension.
“I had no idea I had that in me,” she said with a smile that was split between laughing and crying. “It’s crazy and so unexpected. It’s very unworldly.”
Moving from fourth to first over the final mile, Christensen crushed her previous best on the three-mile course at Franklin Park, clocking 19 minutes, 18 seconds while fending off pursuers with closing speed she didn’t think she possessed.
“I’m not exactly known for my kick,” she said. “On the final straight I thought, oh, they’re going to pass me. They’re coming. But I never saw any shadows.”
Christensen’s surprising victory highlighted a huge day for Yakima, which came within a single point of claiming all four team berths to the state championships in Pasco next week.
With two runners hot on Christensen’s heels, Eisenhower’s band of sophomore girls won the program’s 10th straight district title and did so comfortably by 27 points. Wenatchee clipped West Valley for the second state berth, 69 to 70.
While Ike’s Jonas Price charged to his third consecutive title, winning by 50 seconds in 14:59, West Valley repeated as boys champion with a two-point victory over the Cadets.
For Christensen, a four-time state qualifier, the rise to district champion has a sturdy foundation, having placed fifth, sixth and eighth in this meet previously. But for an athlete who is also devoted to high-quality academics and the school’s marching band, her racing results flagged a bit this fall.
Just nine days ago, Christensen placed seventh in the all-league meet, nearly 40 seconds off the lead pace. But coach Jose Garcia said she was ill that day, forced to actually stop at one point, and that recent workouts indicated something special was brewing.
Christensen delivered, staying off a fast early pace before picking her way through the field. With a mile to go she was in fourth and climbing.
“With a little less than a half mile to go, I saw my teammates yelling at me that this was my last year and to just go for it,” she said. “I poured everything I had into the last mile. I came in thinking top five, maybe a PR. I guess I had low expectations. I’m still in shock.”
In Christensen’s wake, Eisenhower’s victory was secured quickly. Sophomores Alyssa Arias Chavez and Ciera Reyes streamed across in second and third and classmate Hannah Hilton finished fifth. That trio was separated by just six seconds.
“Alyssa had a real breakout day and we were solid all through,” said coach Phil English. “These sophomores are a motivated group and they work hard together. They are running at their best right now.”
West Valley’s distress at missing out on state by one point was eased somewhat by qualifying three girls as individuals. With Lilly Fetzer leading the way, all three broke 20 minutes.
In a strong tune-up for Pasco next week, Price opened with a first mile of 4:54 and closed with a 4:55 mile during the last circuit of his career at Franklin Park.
West Valley junior Brayden Packard ran with Eastmont’s Jarred Barnes for half the race, made a big move at the top of the dogleg, and surged away for second place in 15:49. Packard was also second behind Price last year and third as a freshman.
West Valley and Eisenhower duked it out for the team title as both teams had their scoring five among the top 20 finishers. The first three runners for each team — and the No. 5s — were separated by one place.
A key for the Rams was getting senior Anthony Carlascio, who was 12th as the team’s No. 4, back to full health after missing time with an injury. Like Chavez for the girls, Amha Alemeneh gave the Cadets a big boost in fourth in 16:08, the best time for a sophomore by 28 seconds.
The top two teams and first 14 individual placers all advance to the 4A state meet at Sun Willows Golf Course on Nov. 9.
Team scores: West Valley 44, Eisenhower 46, Wenatchee 78, Eastmont 90, Moses Lake 114, Sunnyside 177, Davis 193.
Winner: Jonas Price (Ike) 14:59.
Local highlights: 2, Brayden Packard (WV) 15:49; 4, Amha Alemeneh (Ike) 16:08; 5, Ben Connell (WV) 16:11; 6, Nathan Valenzuela (Ike) 16:23; 7, Liam Rickey (WV) 16:32; 9, Reid Weaver (Su) 16:33; 12, Anthony Carlascio (WV) 16:38; 16, Oscar Lopez (Ike) 16:49; 18, Dustin Young (WV) 16:55; 19, Fernando Ibarra (Ike) 17:05; 20, Jafet Villasenor (Ike) 17:11; 21, Max Hutton (WV) 17:19; 24, Caleb Stephenson (Ike) 17:22; 26, Russell Ridd (WV) 17:28; 29, Esteban Montemayor (D) 17:36.
Wheelchair: Chance Wells (WV) 15:54.
Team scores: Eisenhower 42, Wenatchee 69, West Valley 70, Moses Lake 74, Eastmont 113, Davis 129, Sunnyside 202.
Winner: Renelle Christensen (D) 19:18.
Local highlights: 2, Alyssa Arias Chavez (Ike) 19:22; 3, Ciera Reyes (Ike) 19:25; 5, Hannah Hilton (Ike) 19:28; 7, Lilly Fetzer (WV) 19:39; 9, Rachel Argento (WV) 19:52; 12, Minelly Sereno (Ike) 19:54; 14, Brooke Bauer (WV) 19:58; 17, Hannah Bremerman (WV) 20:13; 20, Paris Miramontes (Ike) 20:32; 22, Kara Mickelson (Ike) 20:47; 23, Emma Fillmore (WV) 20:53; 25, Mayra Diaz (D) 21:14; 27, Kaylee Condie (Su) 21:20; 29, Rebecca Darwood (WV) 21:24; 30, Kiana Griffiths (WV) 21:35.