Updated: Jan 29, 2020
The finish we had at the end of the 2019 4A cross country state meet showed signs of what will be a competitive spring this track season in a few short months. Introducing the first edition of 2020 track and field previews, here are the top 4A distance runners on the boys side.
Cooper Cortinas, Walla Walla
Was it the final year of cross country the Walla Walla senior was hoping for? No, not at all. A 90th place finish at the 4A state cross meet is something Cooper Cortinas will want to forget after having finished 23rd the year before. But there is great potential with this runner as we saw in his junior track season. The recent WSU commit finished sixth at the 4A state track meet in the 1,600 meter final running a new personal best of 4:12.8. Cortinas has also run personal best marks in the 800 and 3,200 meter races in 1:57.22 and 9:24.89. Like most runners, staying healthy is going to be the biggest thing for Cortinas when it comes to running in Tacoma in late May.
Jacob Easton, University
Jacob Easton had one of the best starts in the state for cross country complying four wins in four races in a two week span. Easton was the runner-up at the 4A state championships running a personal best time of 15:09.9, only to finish behind Lewis & Clark's, Wil Smith. Last spring, Easton was seventh at the 4A state track meet in the 1,600 meter running a time of 4:14.72, which was .16 tenths of a second off his previous best mark where he ran a week earlier at the District 8 meet. He also ran personal best marks in the 800 and 3,200 meter running 1:57.81 and 9:21.12. Be on the lookout in the 3,200 this year as Easton will keep climbing his way to the sub nine minute range.
Sam Geiger, Camas
Even with an early season injury in cross country, Sam Geiger was a big key in helping the Camas Papermakers clinch their first ever state team title in the boy's program history. Geiger lived up to the expectations after his sophomore season of running as he placed sixth individually this last fall at the 4A state meet running 15:22.7. Last track season, Geiger made a big leap from his freshman season running personal best times of 1:55.94 in the 800 meter and 4:19.83 in the 1,600. He was eighth in the 800 and 11th in the 1,600 at the 4A state track meet. One of two Papermakers to make this years list.
Matthew Holme, Sumner
Matthew Holme is an all around athlete on the track. Whether it's in the 400 or the 1,600 meter races, Holme shows great strength and speed in anything he competes in. He was fourth last track season at the 4A state meet in the 800 meter final running a time of 1:57.13, but ran a personal best mark of 1:55.95 in the preliminary round. Holme also qualified for state in the 400 where he placed 11th in 50.95 in the preliminary race. His 1,600 meter personal best time came at the Pasco Invite as he ran 4:29.1. Although he is known as a mid-distance runner, I would like to see Holme race some more 1,600's this spring.
Tyler Hunter, Central Valley
The progression Tyler Hunter made in his senior cross country season was one that earned him a spot on this list. Hunter began the year running 16:32 and ran his best time ever in his last high school cross country race at the 4A state championships in a time of 15:11.7 and earned third place honors. Hunter was a top runner in track last season but wasn't able to stay consistent towards the end of the year. Running personal best times in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races of 4:19.87 and 9:31.97. The only runner on our list to not qualify for the state track meet last season, Hunter comes into this year with many things to look forward to as he seeks his first appearance to state in an event or two.
Brian Martinez, Tahoma
Last year's runner-up in the 4A state 800 meter final, Brian Martinez comes in with the second fastest time in the entire state at 1:53.61, making him one of the favorites to win the state crown in this event. Like Holme from Sumner, Martinez has incredible speed to put him in the conversation of fastest runners in the state of Washington. He's also a great 1,600 meter runner as he posted a personal best time of 4:14.94 at the 4A state track meet last spring and earned eighth place. Martinez was a main contributor of the Bear's second place team as he place 15th individually at the state meet in cross country this fall.
Brayden Packard, West Valley (Yakima)
When Brayden Packard won the 800 meter race at the Pasco Invite as a sophomore last year, the West Valley star got plenty of attention around the state for his ability on the track. Running a personal best 800 meter time of 1:54.22, Packard finished in third place at the 4A state track meet. Despite qualifying for state in one event, Packard ran one of the top 1,600 meter times in the entire state at 4:17.14, which is a personal best. This last fall, Packard ran a personal best time of 15:28.8 at the Fort Steilacoom Invite, but placed 28th at the 4A state cross championships. Packard is an early season favorite to win the 800 at state this spring, as well as a top five finisher in the 1,600.
Jonas Price, Eisenhower
Arguably the best runner in the state based off time last fall, Jonas Price's historical cross country season was one for the books. Besides an unfortunate eighth place finish at the 4A state cross championships, the Oklahoma State commit ran a personal best time of 14:49.9 and broke three different course records in a four week span at large invites around the state. Last spring, Price put up great numbers in the 800, 1,600, and 3,200 meter races and qualified for the 4A state meet in two of them. Finished fourth in the 1,600 and third in the 3,200 running personal best marks of 4:10.22 and 8:57.65. His 800 personal best came at the Blue Devils Legend Invite running 1:55.83. If there is one thing missing from Price's incredible resume he has built the last four years, it's a state championship title.
Wil Smith, Lewis & Clark
You immediately know who Wil Smith is when you see his famous headband. After a tough ending to his junior track season, Smith avenged himself by winning the 4A state cross country individual title with a personal best time of 15:03.3. The success would continue on a few weeks later as Smith earned All-American Honors with a 10th place finish at the Nike Cross Nationals in Portland, Oregon. In the spring, Smith ran personal best marks in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races running 4:14.76 and 9:07.01. Qualified for state in both of these races placing 13th in the 1,600 but did not participate in the 3,200. Assuming all is well for Smith at state this time of around, the Gonzaga commit his my early favorite to win the state titles in the 1,600 and 3,200 meter races.
Luc Utheza, Camas
The second Camas runner to wrap up the list, Luc Utheza is this years dark horse runner for the track season. Last spring, Utheza ran personal best marks of 4:21.82 in the 1,600 meter and 9:27.45 in the 3,200 meter. Qualified for the 4A state meet in the 3,200 where he placed 12th overall running 9:30.17. In the fall, along with being part of the 4A state championship winning team in Camas, Utheza was 15th individually at the state meet, claiming his second state medal in cross country. Ran a personal best time of 15:17.9 at the Fort Steilacoom Invite.
Editor's Note: The Runner's top 4A boy's distance runners was compiled by cross country and track and field analyst Keenan Gray.