Monday, February 6, 2023
Feb. 6, 2023

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All-Region boys cross country: Samuel Grice, Washougal High School

Junior ran 5,000 meters under 16 minutes four times during the season

By , Columbian Sports Editor
2 Photos
Washougal High School cross country runner Samual Grice is The Columbian's boys cross country All-Region runner of the year.
Washougal High School cross country runner Samual Grice is The Columbian's boys cross country All-Region runner of the year. (James Rexroad for The Columbian) Photo Gallery

To take his cross country talent to new heights, Samuel Grice naturally looked to the hills.

Whether it’s the gradual slog up 39th Street to Washougal High School or something short and steep, Grice made a point of working hills into every run he could this fall.

That was for one reason — to run well at the state meet. That rolling course at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course is extra challenging for runners who aren’t well-practiced in cross country’s literal ups and downs.

Grice thrived at the season’s biggest event, finishing second in the Class 2A race despite a stiff wind that made the course extra challenging.

That race capped a stellar season for the junior, one in which he ran under 16 minutes for 5,000 meters four times.

Grice also nearly set the Washougal school record when he ran a personal best of 15:24.9 at the Nike Portland XC on Sept. 24. For his accomplishments, Grice is The Columbian’s All-Region boys cross country runner of the year.

Washougal cross country coach Tracey Stinchfield credits Grice’s attention to detail for his success.

“He takes his training so seriously,” Stinchfield said. “He has an idea in his mind about what his body needs. He studies workouts that are exciting to him.”

Grice didn’t always want to be a runner. Soccer was his favorite activity until seventh grade. That’s when his parents Rachel and Zachary, who both ran cross country at Seattle Pacific University, urged him to try the sport.

By the end of his first season, Grice was second-fastest on the Jemtegaard Middle School team. By eighth grade, he owned the school record for 3,000 meters.

“That was when I really started taking it seriously,” Grice said.

As a freshman, Grice finished third at the district meet to cap a 2020 season shortened by the COVID pandemic.

As a sophomore, Grice finished second at the district meet and 11th at his first state meet.

But a challenging sophomore track and field season, in which Grice dealt with injuries and his own bout with COVID, boosted his motivation for this cross country season.

Grice upped his weekly mileage during the summer. At his season debut at the Ultimook Race near Tillamook, Ore., Grice won on a course that features steep hills, sandy terrain and two water crossings.

“I beat my time from last year by 40 seconds and we were going slow until 1,000 meters to go,” Grice said.

Grice’s best time of the season came three weeks later at Nike Portland XC. He placed ninth in the elite-division Danner Championships race against runners from across the western United States, missing the Washougal school record by 0.3 seconds.

“It really boosted my confidence,” Grice said. “It was the first race where I was really going to put the hammer down and go for it. I did that well and exceeded my expectations for that race.”

Grice set a goal of finishing in the top three at the state meet. He did one better with a runner-up time of 15:56.7, about 19 seconds behind Zack Munson of Sehome.

“I was super focused,” Grice said. “I knew it was time for a good race.”

With his elevated performance comes elevated goals. Grice wants to win the state championship next season and break the school record held by friend and current University of Idaho runner Gabriel Dinnel.

This season also sharpened Grice’s desire to run for a Division-I college program. He eventually wants to become a pilot like his father, who flies for Alaska Airlines.

Whether it’s his career path or cross country, Grice is all about elevating himself and those around him.

“They love running with Samuel,” Stinchfield said of Washougal’s runners. “They know they can’t beat him, but his positive attitude rubs off on others.”

Rest of the All-Region Team

Kamren Mattison, Kelso

Senior was 3A district champion and 9th at bi-district Westside Classic, where he ran a PR of 16:24.

Jacob McManus, Columbia River

Sophomore made big mid-season leap and ran a PR of 16:20 at district meet. Placed 24th at 2A state meet.

Neftali Menendez, Columbia River

Junior set a PR of 16:10 at Meriwether Classic. Placed fourth at the 2A district meet and 32nd at state.

Hayden Reich, Camas

Senior was 4A district champ and set a PR of 16:05 at Hole in the Wall. Sixth at bi-district Westside Classic.

Sam Soto, Seton Catholic

Sophomore was Trico champ, district champ and 13th at 1A state meet. Season best of 16:16 at Meriwether Classic.

Adam Williams, Hudson’s Bay

Junior set a PR of 16:01 at Vernonia Invitational. Placed third and 2A GSHL meet and fifth at districts.