SPOKANE - Peaks and valleys...Sunnyside High School senior Brittany Messmore has experienced both this season.
Messmore's roller coaster ride through the 2007 cross-country season reached the pinnacle, however, at last Saturday's 3A Regional meet. There, she sped to a clocking of 20:23 on the 5,000-meter course, and in the process earned herself a return trip to State.
Her teammate, junior Jacob Rogers, also notched a "Top 15" finish at Regionals to secure a State meet berth. For Rogers, it will be his first ever appearance at State, which will again be staged at Pasco's Sun Willows Golf Course.
Last year, Messmore consistently ran with the leaders in just about every competition she was entered. In 2007, the SHS senior showed flashes of that same brilliance, but there were also times she didn't resemble a State meet veteran.
"In cross-country," said SHS Coach Robin Bryson, "sometimes there are ups and downs. It's not always a steady progression of lowering your times.
"Brittany has had one of those ups and downs type seasons," said Bryson. "Her training allowed her to get through it at Regionals. I'm very happy for her."
Only the top three teams and the top 15 individual runners in both the girls and boys races at Regionals get to move on to State.
With Sunnyside's girls placing eighth from the 10-school field, Messmore's only shot was a "Top 15" finish in the individual placings. The gritty senior showed her resolve by being the 13th girl to cross the finish line.
Lisa Olander of the West Valley Rams, who finished second in the girls team standings at Regionals behind Hanford, was the top individual finisher. Olander sped to a clocking of 19:15. Her West Valley teammate, Stephanie Shuel, placed third overall in a time of 19:39.
Although she didn't qualify for State, Sunnyside freshman Jocelyn Yanez surprised a lot of people with her performance at Regionals. Yanez toured the Wandermere Golf Club course with a nifty clocking of 20:31. She finished 16th, just three seconds short of a State meet berth.
"It was Jocelyn's best race of the season," said Bryson. "She has steadily improved as the season has gone along.
"Down the road, Jocelyn has the potential to really shine," Bryson said.
Also competing for the Sunnyside girls team at Regionals were Lupita Arriaga, 50th in 22:30; Marlene Manzo, 60th in 23:47; Andrea Salmeron, 62nd in 23:51; foreign exchange student Barbara Muellauer, 64th in 25:58; and Karina Romero, 65th in 29:13.
"Our third through seventh place finishers in the Regional girls race, they all ran good, solid races," said Bryson. "Across the board, they all ran very well."
In leading the Grizzly boys across the finish line last Saturday, the junior Rogers placed 13th overall. He toured the 5,000-meter course in a time of 16:44.
The overall boys race winner was Andrew Kimpel of Spokane's North Central High School (15:52). North Central finished first in the boys team standings, followed by Mt. Spokane in second and Southridge in third. Sunnyside's boys placed sixth from the 10-school field.
Bryson described Rogers' performance as a "good, solid effort.
"He moved up through the pack well in the early stages," she said, noting that he settled in at about 12th or 13th and held position there until the end.
Grizzly teammate Jordan Esqueda, considered by most as a "Top 15" threat despite being only a sophomore, lived up to his potential and cruised to a well-earned 22nd place showing in a time of 17:02.
Of the seven Columbia Basin League teams at Regionals, Esqueda was the 10th runner to hit the finish line.
"The depth of the field at Regionals was incredible," said Bryson, explaining that the three Spokane area teams offer top notch competition.
"To have that many quality runners, and for Jordan to finish as high as he did, it was a great effort on his part," said Bryson.
Sunnyside's five other runners in the Regional boys race were all underclassmen, but despite their inexperience said Bryson, all performed above expectations.
The five Grizzly harriers included Gracen Gonzalez, 39th in 17:34; Osvaldo Arroyo, 54th in 18:24; Matt Omlin, 55th in 18:24; Patrick Watts, 56th in 18:27; and Jose Sanchez, 61st in 19:02.
At the 3A State meet in Pasco this coming Saturday, Messmore is scheduled to run in the girls race at 1:30 p.m., with Rogers to compete in the boys race at 3 p.m.