EAST WENATCHEE - Having ran in the competitive Apple Ridge Invite in Cowiche just three days before, there wasn't a lot of fire in the bellies of the Sunnyside High School cross country harriers yesterday at the Columbia Basin League meet on Eastmont's home course.
But, despite not being at their best, the Grizzly runners gutted it out over the hilly and often times soggy three-mile course to post a pretty decent showing. On the boys side, Sunnyside freshman Jordan Esqueda turned in the second fastest 3A time. Junior Brittany Messmore of Sunnyside took it one step further, clocking the fastest 3A time in the girls race.
"All of our kids looked pretty tired," said Sunnyside Coach Robin Bryson. "It was a pretty short turn-around for them, having to compete yesterday after Saturday's run up at Cowiche."
Bryson credited her runners with giving it their all, though.
In the boys race, she said, the Grizzlies refused to succumb to weary legs. "They all went out and competed. They just hung in there and got the job done," Bryson said.
The freshman Esqueda, it turned out, competed above and beyond expectations. The only 3A runner to best him was Kamiakin's Brad Young, who toured the less than speedy three-mile course in a time of 16:28.7. Esqueda clocked a 17:10.1, edging Eastmont's Rafael Gonzalez by six-tenth's of a second for an overall 10th place finish.
Of the first 10 runners to cross the finish line, eight hailed from 4A schools-four apiece from Walla Walla and Eisenhower. It was the Blue Devils' Bowe Ebding who grabbed top honors in the boys race, speeding to a clocking of 16:05.3. Young of Kamiakin finished second overall, followed by Zach Liedtke of Ike in third (16:40.1).
In addition to Esqueda hanging with the big boys, Sunnyside senior Sterling Scott ran an inspired race, finishing just five seconds back of the freshman for an overall 13th place finish (17:15.3).
Scoring for the Grizzly boys varsity team also included the performances of Jacob Rogers, 22nd overall (17:33.2); Gracen Gonzalez, 29th overall (17:51.5); and J.T. Gonzalez, 34th overall (18:18.6).
In the boys team scoring yesterday, Sunnyside picked up a 20-35 victory against the Kennewick Lions, its second league win of the year. Kennewick's top runner was Behram Sawess, 14th place overall in a time of 17:17.0. The Grizzly boys were on the short end of 26-30 and 22-36 scores to Eastmont and Kamiakin, respectively.
"I'm very happy with our boys," said Bryson. "We're making huge progress with our guys team."
In Tuesday's girls race, Messmore finished well out in front of Kamiakin's Tina Miller, the second 3A runner to hit the finishing tape. Messmore clocked a time of 20:21.9, nearly 25 seconds better than the clocking of the runner-up from Kamiakin.
With the fastest 3A time in the race, the only harriers to top the Sunnyside junior were Walla Walla's Helen Reich and Ashlee Wall, who posted times of 19:57.3 and 19:58.1, respectively.
"It was a great performance by Brittany (Messmore)," said Bryson. "Her strength yesterday...she was consistent from start to finish.
"In our first league meet of the season Brittany was a little hesitant to run with the leaders. Yesterday, she looked like she belonged," said Bryson.
Also competing for the Sunnyside girls team Tuesday were Marlene Manzo (25:38.5), Kassandra Reyes (29:06.8), Monica Manzo (29:14.2), Amanda Montelongo (32:56.3) and Karina Romero (35:04.0).
In the girls team scoring the Lady Grizzlies fell by 21-34 and 20-43 scores to Eastmont and Kamiakin, but picked up a win against Kennewick because the Lions have no girls out this year for cross country.
Next up for the Sunnyside cross country squads is the prestigious Sunfair Invitational in Yakima, slated for this coming Saturday.