Bellingham - Of all the 3200 meter runners competing this week at the 1A State Track and Field Championships, the only thing they have in common is they are competing in the same event. However, 4 of them do share something else, they are all competing for the same school.
The Meridian Trojans are bringing over a total of 6 distance runners to state, but what is more amazing is 4 of the 6 are competing in the same event. The four include senior Kenny Barnes, and Juniors Abbas Theophilus, Jaskaran Dhatt, and Nathan Schneider. But how is it possible that all 4 made it together?
Last week at King's High School, the 4 boys competed in the 1A Bi-District 3200 Meter final with 4 automatic births to state. But with an auto-qualifying of 10:01, all 4 met the standard breaking the 10 minute barrier by a substantial amount as they finished 4th-7th.
Following his junior campaign, Kenny Barnes took the leadership role as the lone senior on a cross country team that had high hopes of winning a state team championship but unfortunately came up a little short finishing 3rd. Now, it feels like cross country season all over again as these four including Kenny carried the Meridian boy's last fall are teaming up together in the same race for track.
"It is exciting to go with these guys to State track." Barnes said in a interview last Monday. "When I leave, these guys will be the senior leaders next year and for them to make it as juniors, which is something I wasn't able to accomplish, it is really cool to see these guys' progress along their careers."
The success has carried these juniors a long way the past couple of years, but it isn't just the training and long miles, it is in fact the bother hood that keeps them going.
"For me when I started, these guys were a lot better than me" said Dhatt. "These guys were my friends on the team and they basically motivated me because I wanted to be able to run with them, so I started to train harder and we were all pushing each other to get better. I know when its an off day for me, I can count of these guys to pick me up."
But what makes it even more fun is the ability to create competition with one another.
"To add on with our friendship piece, I think its the competition part that has pulled all 4 of us even closer." says Dhatt.
Competition is something that has made the Meridian boys track and cross country programs so successful the last decade with some great runners coming through like Kelby Todd, Collin Magnusson, and Mark Burke. In Abbas Theophilus's perspective, he is definitely motivated by his teammates.
"The fact we're all here as a friends, it balances the motivation off each of us." Theophilus elaborates. "We also have the "whole grain" coaching that we get from Coach Holz and Coach Burgess that inspires us even more to run for each other. Because we are such a close bunch, this motivates us even more to train in the off season and rely on each other to keep true to our word."
The last time Meridian brought a boy distance runner to the State meet was back in 2014, when Collin Magnusson competed in the 1600 and 3200. Now, 4 years later, they are bringing even more with them to Cheney.
"I think it is really exciting not only for us and our team, but for the whole community to see that we put in all this hard work to get where we are at today." says Dhatt reflecting on what the community thinks. "We have just put in so many hours and so many miles, that I'm excited for all of us making school history this weekend, and I'm glad Kenny gets to be part of history as this will be his last high school race with us."
It almost feels like it is a cross country team competing in a track and field meet because all 4 of these boys carried last fall's cross team to the state cross meet and impressed many. Theophilus is excited they made it to Cheney, but it is probably the coaches who are more excited.
"For the coaches, I know they wanted us to make it, maybe even more than we wanted it." Theophilus jokes.
Of the 4 competing this week, the 1 person who has really impressed not only his teammates, but himself, is Nathan Schneider. Schneider had a massive breakthrough at the state cross meet his sophomore year running his best time of the season in 17:03. It is something he will never forget.
"The last thing I can remember about that meet was before the race when Holz told me to go out there and just run" says Schneider looking back. "So that was kind of my thing to just keep running, almost like it was movie or something."
For those who don't know what he was talking about, Schneider was referring to Tom Hank's famous film, Forest Gump.
"That was my motivation and each guy I saw I just picked them off one by one and they led me to where I am, going to the state track meet."
This is quite an exciting time for not only these 4 boys, but for the entire Meridian School District and community as they get to watch 4 fantastic runners go off to Cheney, Washington with hopes of bringing some hardware home.
"When we all go to Cheney and compete, I think all we need to do is just work as a team and get the job done." said Schneider.
The 1A Boys 3200 Meter Final kicks off on Saturday at 4:10 at Eastern Washington University at Roos Field.