All-American Storm

Local cross country runners finish strong at nationals

The synergy between the athletes and coaches in the Evergreen Storm Track Club is creating All-Americans.

“We’re kind of like a family,” said Rachel Blair, a 13-year-old from Camas. “We spend so much time running together.”

Blair, Tyler Dinh, Tory Kehler and Darlina Rose became All-Americans after finishing in the top 20 of their age groups at the Junior Olympic National Cross Country Championships Dec. 13, in Myrtle Beach, S.C. Allison and Gabriella Warta, Aiden and Amelia Pullen, Serena Smith and Ryan Stuck also competed at the meet.

“I’ll remember the feelings I had the whole day,” Gabriella Warta said. “Nervousness, excitement, pain and then relief. It was all worth it in the end.”

Dinh earned fifth place in the boys 9-10 division’s 3,000-meter national race. The 10-year-old from Camas crossed the finish line in 10 minutes, 47.52 seconds.

“It was fun, but I was nervous,” Dinh said. “Being able to do this makes me feel like I can do anything.”

This was just Dihn’s third cross country race. He caught the eye of Evergreen Storm founder Scott Slamp during a soccer game against his son’s team. After the game, Slamp asked Dinh if he would like to join the club. The rest is history.

“He’s just one of those rare athletes that just make your jaw drop,” Slamp said.

Blair grabbed ninth place in the girls 13-14 4,000-meter run with a time of 14:31.91. She made a push in the final 200 meters to achieve her goal of finishing in the top 10.

“I didn’t want to finish that close to my goal and not get it,” Blair said. “That finish felt good. I just ran out of space to pass more people at the end.”

Washougal’s Allison and Gabriella Warta are following in the footsteps of their mother, Jessica. She ran for Washington State University. Allison, 13, finished her national 4K in 15:36.20. Gabriella, 11, completed her 3K in 11:44.60.

“I want to be a faster runner, and I learned what I have to do to get better,” Allison said.

“I just want to keep building and getting stronger so I can place higher and higher at nationals each year,” Gabriella said.

Kehler took 13th place (19:30.89) and Rose followed in 20th place (19:36.13) in the girls 17-18 division’s 5K. Both All-Americans are seniors at Heritage High School, in Vancouver.

“Those are both good times for them,” Slamp said. “It would be special if this helps with their college dreams.”

Washougal’s Aiden and Amelia Pullen made at splash at nationals. Aiden finished the 15-16 5K in 17:03.64 and Amelia completed the 13-14 4K in 16:23.90.

Smith wrapped up her 13-14 national 4K in 15:17.98. Stuck capped off his 7-8 2K in 9:23.83.