Sunfair girls - Martinez leads Pirates to their best finish
By SCOTT SPRUILL
YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC
 
Sunfair girls - Martinez leads Pirates to their best finish
By SCOTT SPRUILL
YAKIMA HERALD-REPUBLIC
Sandra Martinez had it in mind to run fast on Saturday. So fast that no girl in Davis' history would have ever run faster in the Sunfair Invitational.
 

KRIS HOLLAND/Yakima Herald-Republic
Davis' Sandra Martinez, middle, runs in the seventh flight of the Sunfair Invitational cross country meet at Franklin Park Saturday, September 29, 2007.
 
That she came up a scant three seconds shy of that goal didn't turn out to be heartbreaking news for the junior cross country ace. Especially since she still contributed heavily to a piece of Pirates' history in the 34th annual meet at Franklin Park.

With Martinez finishing fourth in a wickedly fast elite flight in a time of 18 minutes, 26 seconds - which would have won last year's race by nine seconds - Davis' girls earned the best team finish in school history with sixth place in the 100-team field.

West Valley was one spot back in seventh on a cool and dry afternoon that made for ideal racing conditions.

Martinez's time was 33 seconds faster than last year but just missed Meredith Crane's 2001 school-best effort of 18:23.

I'm happy with it, and I knew by the splits it would be fast, said Martinez, who moved up three places from her sophomore finish here a year ago. I was hoping for that school record but the main thing was getting a PR and I got that.

Since the expansion of the Sunfair field to its current size, which dates back more than two decades, the best Davis' girls had done was 16th and that was in Crane's '01 season.

The Pirates have often had trouble supplying the depth that Sunfair requires with its seven varsity flights. But this year, with the team climbing to 10th in the Class 4A state poll, Davis' roster has filled in nicely.

And with quality, too.

The Pirates turned in three of the Valley's six times under 20 minutes on the rugged three-mile course. Junior Shawna Schooley clocked 19:20 in the sixth flight, and senior Norma Melchor placed third in the fifth flight in 19:55.

Coach Jose Garcia didn't have much time to celebrate with his team directly after Martinez's run because he jumped in the coaches/open race for his own tour of the course.

It was a good day for everybody, he said. The girls are working hard and having fun. We won the Highlander meet (in Spokane earlier this month) and that sort of opened their eyes a little.

Even with their high finishes, Davis and West Valley both paid a price for scoring seven deep instead of five. The Pirates accumulated 39 of their 64 points in the first two flights, and West Valley did not have a runner in the fifth flight.

Teams are required to have runners in at least five flights to be eligible for team scoring, and if a runner drops out or can't start that team is given last-place points for that flight. Thus, West Valley was saddled with 28 points for the one race and it finished with 77.

Seven deep hurts us a little but, even so, we did pretty well, said West Valley coach Bob Allan. We've got some girls moving up who will be able to help us but they're young. We're getting there.

The Rams, who are ranked sixth in 3A and were the highest-finishing team at Sunfair in that class, got their best times from reliable leaders Lisa Olander (19:01) and Stephanie Shuel (19:34).

The depth and speed of the elite flight was remarkable as 10 girls broke 19 minutes and Kingston sophomore Ruby Roberts nearly broke Franklin's rare barrier of 18 minutes.

Roberts, who attended North Kitsap last year before moving into the new school in the North Kitsap School District, clocked 18:01 for Sunfair's 13th best time ever. Runner-up Kinsey Gomez, a freshman from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, crossed in 18:06 and also cracked the all-time top 20.

Roberts shaved nearly 1 1/2 minutes off her time last year when she won the fifth flight.

Gomez was trailed closely by another ninth-grader, third-place Baylee Mires, who led a surprising Mead team to a victory over top-ranked Gig Harbor.

The Panthers came in ranked eighth in the 4A state poll but showed the kind of depth and quality Saturday that would suggest they'll move up a few spots next week. Mead won three flights, placed second in two others and never finished lower than fourth en route to a 14-point total - tying for the lowest ever since the meet's expansion in the late 1980s.

Gig Harbor, a two-time reigning state champ that has come up short at Sunfair in recent years, was tied with Mead after four flights but couldn't match the Panthers in the final three races. The Tides still finished with just 19 points, which would have been a winning score in any year since 1994.