Jackson’s Helmer is 4A’s top sophomore

PASCO — In a race dominated by juniors and seniors, Jackson High School sophomore Jeff Helmer gave a glimpse of things to come Saturday at the state cross country meet.

Helmer finished sixth, 27 spots ahead of the next sophomore to cross the finish line at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. Helmer, his Everett School District-rival Matthew Kaftanski of Everett, who placed 34th, and Mount Spokane’s Mike Hartanov (33rd) were the only sophomores to break the top 50.

"He hung in with the lead pack as long as he could," said Jackson coach Eric Hruschka, whose team finished fifth. "He got beat by some older guys — little bit bigger, stronger kids that are juniors and seniors. His years will come ahead."

Helmer was a 12th of a mile into the 3.1-mile course and gradually worked his way into the group of front-runners. Mead’s Even Garber edged Inglemoor’s David Kinsella in a spectacular finish. Ferris, led by the fifth-place finish of Justin Houck, kept Spokane’s reign of cross country dominance intact by knocking of favored Eisenhower of Yakima. Mead, which had won three straight titles and 12 of the last 15, finished third despite having two runners in the top three.

"I definitely wanted to do better," said Helmer, who was admittedly light-headed after the race. "But, what can I say. I tried my hardest. I’ve got to hand it to all those guys. They ran their hearts out."

Especially during the last 150 yards.

Kinsella, a senior, crested "heartbreak ridge" in the lead. Two Mead runners, Garber and Laef Barnes, lurked close behind and were gaining ground. As Kinsella descended toward the finish, the Mead runners made their move. Kinsella held Garber off until the last 10 yards. As Garber began to pass, Kinsella shocked himself by starting to reach for him, desperately trying to overcome his empty tank.

Horrified at what a lack of oxygen will do to a brain, he pulled his arm back in before any harm was done. Both runners recorded times of 15 minutes, 24 seconds. Barnes was a second later. Helmer (15:38) came in behind Cummings (15:30) and Eisenhower’s Justin Houck (15:31).

"I could hear the crowd roaring," Kinsella said. "I was thinking ‘Oh man, one of those Mead guys is coming up on me. I know it. I didn’t concede, but I knew he was coming.

"I didn’t mean to grab (at) him. I was like, ‘No!’"

Caleb Knox, who was violently ill after the race, finished 14th for Jackson. He was among the leaders for a good part of the race before losing a few places on the ridge.

"He went all out today," Hruschka said. "He may have gone a little too hard too early. But, he ran a really nice race."

Kamiak junior Kelly Spady finished 10th (15:53) to lead the Knights to ninth place. Edmonds-Woodway’s Michael Stewart finished 19th.

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