Highlander Recap: Distel, Marquardt Set Season Tone in Opening Races

Distel wins second consecutive Highlander title; Mardquardt blows away competition in girls varsity race.

Riverside's Jamar Distel won his second consecutive Highlander Invite title running 12:17.89 for the 2.5-mile course at Shadle Park High School on Saturday, September 11, 2021. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

SPOKANE - Nearly two years had gone by since the last time the Highlander Invite saw numerous cross country runners and fans on the campus of Shadle Park High School.

Just like the last invite 728 days ago, this year's return of the invite this past Saturday didn't disappoint either.

Riverside's Jamar Distel and Kennewick's Macy Marquardt put up impressive performances in their respective races on Saturday, September 11, 2021, to open up the 2021 high school season, running the fastest times of the day for both boys and girls competitors.

Distel won his second consecutive Highlander title in a time of 12:17.29 for the 2.5-mile race in the boy's senior race, besting Mead's Brycen Gardner (2nd, 13:07.97) and Lewis and Clark's Brian Bowers (3rd, 13:13.97) by almost a minute.

It was all Distel from the start. He clocked in at 4:35 for his first mile and gradually built upon his lead on Mead’s Gardner and Lewis and Clark’s Bowers.

“I was trying to maintain that pace, especially when I was running by myself,” Distel said. “I want people to expect this season that my first miles are ran like that and hopefully continued on in the race.”

Since his disappointing 12th place run at the 2019 1A state cross country meet, Distel has made it a priority to get back into the conversation of the state's best runners. During the COVID seasons, Distel proved his worth by winning the virtual 1A state cross country championship in 15:12.3 and then ran a lifetime best in the 3,200 at the Olympia 3,200, running 9:04.97 placing eighth overall.

He gained his confidence back and has now made it a mission to be the best in Washington. Not just for small schools but the entire state.

“You don’t have to be a part of a big program to be the best,” Distel said. “I’m coming from a school not very many people have heard of, and I’m still able to run national-level times. It’s all about having passion and drive.”

Mead won the senior boy's team title with five of their nine runners finishing within the top 10. West Valley finished in second, while Cheney was third.

As for Marquardt, the Kennewick senior dominated from start to finish and ran a time of 14:17.02 to win the girl's varsity race over Asotin's Chloe Overberg - who was second running 14:49.13.

“I made sure what I was doing felt in a way perfect,” said Marquardt. “I did turn back a few times just to see where everyone was, but I stayed focused the entire time.”

Marquardt's much improved junior year was one of the biggest surprises this past spring cross country season. She went undefeated in the Mid-Columbia Conference and won the conference title in a 5k personal best time 18:06.1. She then finished as the runner-up in the virtual 3A state meet.

Before this year, Marquardt had never won a cross country race but managed to qualify for two state meets as a freshman and sophomore and placed top 40 in both meets.

Kennewick's Macy Marquardt crosses the finish line in first in the girls varsity race at the Highlander Invite at Shadle Park High School on Saturday, September 11, 2021. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

After Saturday's race, Marquardt has since won seven of her last eight cross country races dating back to the spring season. She is also in real consideration to be a front runner in the state title mix.

“During COVID, running was all I had,” said Marquardt. “I got really good at noticing everything like how my form was and how my breathing was. I just paid attention to all of that.”

“You don’t always have to be good to rise up,” said Marquardt. “When I was at state my freshman year, I saw people on the podium and was like, ‘I’m going to do that, I want to do that,.’”

Mead's Alanna Parker finished in third running 15:11.9 and led the Panthers to the varsity team title. Kennewick was second, and Central Valley was third.

Lewis and Clark's Evan Bruce and Charles Ledwith finished first and second in the junior boy's race, running 13:07.74 and 13:17.92 and led the Tigers to the junior team title.

“I think it was great for the boys to get out there and do an early race,” said Bruce. “I feel great about it, and it got us ready for the season ahead.”

Lakeside's Hayden Blank finished in third running 13:37.47.

St. George's swept the freshman boys and girls race, with Hrair Garabedian winning the boys race in 14:15.55 and Josie McLaughlin winning the girl's race in 16:40.41.

“Knowing Hrair is extremely competitive, it wasn’t necessarily a surprise he won, but Josie winning by the big distance wasn’t a surprise either, because she’s a very good age-group competitor,” St. George’s head coach Rick Riley said.

The Dragons also got a win in the sophomore boys race from Ben Morales, who clocked in a time of 14:28.43.

“The talent we have in our younger classes is incredible,” Riley said. “A lot of the newcomers are not used to the kind of level of training we do, but they have been able to buy into it and have embraced the work.”


For full results from the 2021 Highlander Invite, click here.

To view photos from Saturday's races, click here.

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