This was the pinnacle for a program loaded with streaks, trophies and titles at the state level, and in 2010 it added a rare championship sweep. Eisenhower’s girls provided the drama in a three-way fight decided by just six points, but the boys — whose top three runners were separated by less than two seconds — were the talk of the day by keeping Spokane off the top of the podium for the first time in 22 years.
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PASCO — If it was simply a matter of handling what it could control — bearing the weight of a season-long No. 1 state ranking and perform uniformly well on the one day it mattered — then Eisenhower’s boys had good reason for optimism at Saturday’s state cross country championships.
But the Cadets also had to overcome a nationally revered mystique spanning three decades.
They had to derail a prep dynasty second to none.
They had to beat Spokane.
So when the first runner in was from challenger Lewis & Clark, and when Ike’s lineup shuffled with last week’s No. 4 coming to the front, it looked like a good day for preservationists.
For about nine seconds.
That’s how long it took for Eisenhower’s top four runners to stream across the finish line, a decisively tight wave of blue and red that gave the Cadets the strength to beat Lewis & Clark and end 22 years of Spokane domination at Sun Willows Golf Course.
“We made history and it wasn’t easy,” smiled senior Timothy Cummings, whose brother Charles ran on two state runner-up teams turned back by Mead in 2002 and Ferris in 2003. “What’s it been, 20-some years? A lot of good teams have come here and tried to do it, and it’s cool that we’re the ones.”
After edging Lewis & Clark on a sixth-runner tiebreaker at last week’s regional meet, the Cadets knew they were in for the battle of their athletic lives — that they could all race very well and still lose. Especially since no Class 4A title trophy had ever been handed to a non-Spokane school since the meet came to Pasco in 1988.
But Ike responded in a way that showcased its strength.
Junior Jaziel Rodriguez, who hadn’t led Ike all season and had no state experience, surged forward in the final mile and towed the Cadet pack in. He finished in 14th in 15 minutes, 55 seconds on the 5,000-meter course and was followed almost directly by Santos Vargas (16th), Timothy Cummings (18th) and German Silva (22nd).
All four finished before LC’s No. 2, but the Tigers from Spokane rallied by getting the rest of its scoring team in before Ike’s No. 5 runner finished. It was a strong way to back their surprising individual champion, Kenji Bierig.
But what Lewis & Clark needed was for Delfino Dominguez to fade.
Ike’s sophomore No. 5 came in just seven seconds behind LC’s No. 5 and his support of the Big Four closed the deal by nine points, 73 to 82.
“I was just so nervous, and I know the coaches were worried about me because it’s my first time here,” Rodriguez said. “I had to suck it up because I couldn’t let these guys down. I kept thinking about that and it helped me focus.
“With a half mile to go I was feeling pretty good,” he added. “I wasn’t sure about leading for us, but by then everybody was just giving it everything they had left.”
Vargas, the victim of a restart last year that injured several Cadets in a tumble, improved 78 places over 2009 and was one second behind Rodriguez.
“Our strategy was to hook onto each other, the second following the first and the third following the second — line up like that and stick together,” Vargas explained. “Our order was different, but Jaziel is really good. He was really nervous about this but he came through.”
The entire team, including Kyle Chapman and Peter Troianello, wore warm-up shirts on the awards podium declaring themselves ‘Mister’s Army’ after head coach Phil English.
It was English’s 1987 boys squad that was the last non-Spokane team to win the 4A title, doing so in Port Townsend. He assembled many fine teams in the intervening years and knew full well it would take something exceptional to wrest the trophy from the Lilac city.
“Our kids were aware of it, it’s hard not to be,” English said. “Mead, Ferris and University have done some amazing things and they feed off each other. But our kids ran smart races and helped each other. They did all season long.”
English said his commander on the field has been Cummings, a veteran of three state meets along with Silva.
“Jaziel had a great day and really came of age,” the coach said. “But Timothy has been the leader, the glue for this team. He took us out today and that got the others settled in. They worked so well together.”
“This was the perfect ending,” Cummings said as Lewis & Clark congratulated the Cadets. “We were ranked No. 1 all season and we tried to live up to it. Sometimes it wasn’t easy, but today we did it. We won the state championship.”