Fab five thrive with great personal drive

Spartan harriers Caroline Johnson, Hillary Pritchett, Joel Turkheimer, Bevan Taylor and Emily Farrar stretch out at practice at Battle Point Park. - JIM BRYANT photo
Spartan harriers Caroline Johnson, Hillary Pritchett, Joel Turkheimer, Bevan Taylor and Emily Farrar stretch out at practice at Battle Point Park.
— image credit: JIM BRYANT photo

The Spartans run at State in Pasco today.

Just call them the fab five.

For the quintet from the Bainbridge High School cross country team – Caroline Johnson, Emily Farrar, Hillary Pritchett, Joel Turkheimer and Bevan Taylor – have overcome injuries and top-flight competition to qualify for the 3A State cross country meet today in Pasco at the Sun Willows Golf Course. The girls race starts at 11:30 a.m., the boys at 2 p.m.

It’s the first time for all five runners to make it this far, and the first time in three years that any Spartan harrier has gone to State.

“They’re really talented,” assistant coach Anne Howard Lindquist said. “They’re a really good group of talented kids.”

Assistant coach Pat Logan added, “We had a few problems with injuries, especially with the girls, so that zapped us for a little bit, but to get three (girls) out of our top five to State is an accomplishment.”

Johnson, Pritchett, Turkheimer and Taylor have been running for years, but Farrar, whose main sport is basketball, just turned out for conditioning and instead found success.

“I think it’s impressive for her being on the team her first year and getting to state,” Johnson said.

The runners’ success comes from head coach Dean Tarbill’s commitment to take his team to the next level with a rigorous summer training program, scheduling several invites, revamping the course at Battle Point Park and setting a firm practice schedules.

Most importantly, the coaches try to get the kids to motivate themselves.

“I always tell them, ‘champions are made in the offseason,’” Tarbill said. “By the time the season comes around, you’ve got to be in shape and start honing and detailing for your competition. You’ve got to be in shape and it takes a lot of work and intensity.”

Tarbill came to the program from Spartan track and field.

“He’s been our track coach, so a lot of us knew him,” Taylor said. “He brought a very different aspect from our last coach. It was more about dedication, and he got people to show up for practice.”

The core runners – Johnson, Pritchett, Taylor and Turkheimer, who have run for cross country and track since stepping inside BHS – responded, the younger runners followed suit and the conditioning paid off.

“The improvement is monumental,” Taylor said. “It’s huge.”

Turkheimer agrees.

“It makes a difference,” he said. “That’s what I think was missing before. People were trying to show up and run and they weren’t in shape. That’s where I think there’s a lot of improvement is that people are showing up in shape.”

Johnson appreciates what Tarbill, Logan and Lindquist bring to the team.

“(Practices) are more focused, more intense,” she said. “It’s not focusing on kids who just want to be there for fun. If you want to be intense about it, you can.”

The girls were one of the top-ranked teams in the state this season, while the boys were competitive despite having only one junior (Taylor) and the rest sophomores and freshmen – some of whom were in their first year in any high school sport.

Taylor was running hurt for most of the season, suffering from a sprained ankle and tendinitis in his toe.

“We thought that (if) Bevan or Joel could get to State, that would be great,” Tarbill said. “At the end, (the boys team) improved the most, and they’re all sophomores except for Bevan.”

Taylor noticed the talent on his team as well.

“This is the deepest team we’ve had in a long time,” he said. “All of our runners are faster this year than our fourth runner last year.”

Expectations on the girls’ side were considerably higher.

Johnson, a district qualifier in track in the 1600 and 3200, and Pritchett, who won a state track title in the 800 and on the 4x100 relay team, were the top two runners on the team. They, along with Callie McKenzie, Michelle Yates, Emilie VanVleet and Molly O’Keefe and others were geared up for a successful jaunt.

But injuries took a toll, as McKenzie suffered a strained leg muscle, Yates had to sit out with a stomach ailment and Pritchett fought through problems with her arches.

“That (injuries) really hurt us at the end,” said Logan. “A good example is Blanchet. When we faced them here, we beat them quite handily. Just two weeks later we were a different team.”

What makes the five qualifiers stand out is their mental acumen.

When Johnson started track two years ago, she didn’t do anything to stand out. But her love of running motivated her to improve herself.

Pritchett trained in the offseason as well, while Farrar was used to working hard, having gone through Penny Gienger’s demanding basketball program.

Turkheimer and Taylor – who said he was “awful” in his freshman year – bring not only a love of running, but a hatred of losing.

Tarbill gives all five credit in bettering their mental approach as well as their physical.

“What really distinguishes these young people is their rarified, cultivated sense of mental toughness and fortitude,” he said. “There are athletes who are better athletes, but you have to build and cultivate that type of temperament.”

As for their chances out on the course today, Tarbill will keep his team ready to go rather than a “just happy to be here” attitude.

“I don’t want anybody feigning nonchalance or ‘I don’t care if I’m there,’” he said. “That ticks us coaches off because we put in all that time and effort too, and I tell them their parents have also got you there and they want to celebrate your success because in part they’re celebrating themselves and their effort.

“We’re going to be there to improve and not just to compete, but compete and improve with the best athletes (in the state.)

Turkheimer is pragmatic about his and Taylor’s chances.

“I don’t want to go in there with false expectations,” he said. “I want to do well and race as hard as I can. That’s all I can do is work as hard as I can.”

While Johnson feels they will need a break to place high as a team, her individual goals are to take care of her arch-rival.

“I really want to beat (Holy Names runner) Chelsea Burns,” said Johnson. “It would be good to be in the top 10 and even better to be top six.

“I’m hoping I can get fourth place or fifth place.”

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