Thrice is nice

Speiker defends state championship, takes third title in four years

PASCO – Happy, but not quite satisfied, Sierra Speiker still has goals and aspirations to reach for, even after winning her third Class 1B/2B state title in four years.

Speiker was heavily favored in the Saturday, Nov. 9, race at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course and didn’t disappoint, losing the rest of the field as she crested the hill at the 100-meter mark and cruised to a 30-second lead within the first mile, extending that to 41-second victory.

Her time of 18:20.41 was her personal best for the course. And like every course she’s run on this season, the drop was precipitous: 24 seconds.

Speiker was treated to a police / fire / ambulance escort through Oroville on Sunday when she returned home.

One thing that made this season play out the way it did is that Speiker always wants more, and Saturday was no exception, state championship or not.

“I felt pretty good,” she said, adding that she’d wanted to get under the 18 minute mark. “I wish I was a little faster, but that’s OK.”

One of her top competitors this season, freshman Erin Mullins of Cascade, won the Class 1A state title. Mullins and Speiker engaged in a battle at the Omak Invitational in October that resulted in the season-best times for both.

“I wish I could have run with her,” Speiker said. “That would have been nice.”

“When you’re out there running alone, 45 seconds ahead of the competition, it is kind of hard to push and get your best time,” said Oroville coach Doug Kee, who said he thought Mullins and Speiker might have pushed each other under that coveted 18-minute mark. “It really helps to have somebody pushing you and she didn’t really have that today. But she ran an excellent race.”

Speiker’s time actually held up well against the larger divisions despite her “running against the clock” predicament.

Her 18:20 would have won the 1A race, placed third in 2A, taken fourth in 3A and seventh in 4A. That’s all speculation; there is no telling how any of those races would have played out with Speiker in the mix. (No matter the speculation, one amazing reality: Alexa Afraimson of Camas, who set a course record with a blazing 17:01.1 in the 4A race, was 49 seconds faster than anyone else in any class).

That desire to run with others with the same passion and skill as Speiker motivated her to step her training up last summer as she ran as many as 70 miles a week to prepare for the season. That translated to personal bests on every course she ran by anywhere from 30 seconds to over a minute. Drops in time that are unheard of amongst runners already at the top of their class.

“I wanted to get colleges looking at me so I could go and run at in college next year,” Speiker said. “And I really wanted to break 18 (minutes) but … next year.

“(I’m) very excited. It will be nice to run with somebody and train with them. Push me, and not always be out there by myself.”

Speiker doesn’t know where that will be yet; however, in the more immediate future there is still next spring’s track season. As the defending 3200-meter (about two mile) champion, she wants to defend that title and add the 1600 to her resume.

“I really want to push for those,” she said. “I can get 11 minutes (after two miles) in cross country so I should be able to get that in track (for the 3200). I can do 11 minutes and still have to keep going, so I better be able to get that in track.”

“She really needs to work on the 800 even though that’s not her goal,” Kee said. “(If) she can get that down, she’ll get the others (times) down.”

Kee said his coaching relationship with Speiker has evolved as she’s gained both experience and confidence.

“It’s been entertaining,” he said. “The first two years she was so shy you never got a word out of her. But now she’s pretty much in charge. I tell her what to do and she says, ‘Why don’t we do this instead?’ So I only think I’m in charge.

“But it’s been great, it really has. It’s been a lot of fun to work with her.”