Back from running at state and earning All-Mid-Columbia Conference honors for the second year in a row, both Cooper Cortinas and Cannon Angotti are poised to once again lead the Walla Walla High School boys cross country team.
Wa-Hi will host its annual MCC race here at Fort Walla Walla on Wednesday afternoon, starting at 4 p.m.
Last year at the fort, the Wa-Hi boys placed fourth out of nine teams.
Angotti finished the 5-kilometer course seventh, less than 25 seconds off the lead.
Cortinas was the next Blue Devil across the line, 12th overall.
Angotti is coming off a record-setting run to start this season Sept. 14 in Spokane at the Highlander Invite.
Finishing the 2.5-mile race sixth overall, he topped Wa-Hi boys with a 12:53.4 that was nearly 20 seconds ahead of his previous best from last year.
“I think me and Cooper can go 1-2 at the meet,” Angotti said. “And I think we can win it as a team.”
This past spring, Cortinas was integral to the Wa-Hi boys’ state track and field championship — he placed sixth in the 1,600-meter race — and returns to action still buzzing.
“We’re pretty confident going in,” Cortinas said. “All our summer training went well, and everything’s been feeling good. And coming off the track season, I felt pretty good so hopefully that’ll translate to cross country.”
Now seniors, Cortinas and Angotti have paced Blue Devil runners at almost every meet the last two years.
The 2017 season featured a pair of sophomores, Cortinas and Angotti, leading Wa-Hi boys three weeks in a row — including regionals. Cortinas went on to state, where he finished around the middle of 164 runners, and made the All-MCC second team. Angotti was an honorable mention.
Last fall, Cortinas and Angotti placed third and fourth respectively at districts. Both went onto state with Cortinas up to 23rd place, Angotti 41st.
This time the MCC put Angotti on its first team all-conference, Cortinas second.
“They’re in the position they are (in) because of their motivation, because of their work ethic,” Wa-Hi coach Michael Locati said. “And you know, a little God-given talent doesn’t hurt by any means, but they’re pretty special kids.
“They’re great kids,” Locati said. “They’ve done everything that we’ve asked them to do, trusted us in the training and our philosophy. It’s nice to see the results when that happens, and it’s kinda that proof — obviously they’re talented, but with that you’ve got to be able to back it up with hard work. Those two work really hard, and they’re very motivated.”
Originally, both Cortinas and Angotti had started running cross country while at Pioneer Middle School as little more than conditioning for basketball season.
“We ran cross country together in eighth grade, but (Cooper) had started in seventh grade,” Angotti said. “I didn’t start until eighth grade. Turned out I was pretty good at it so I kept going, and it’s just been really fun. I liked the people involved.
“Probably sophomore year was when I started getting really kinda good at it,” Angotti said. “I increased my mileage, started running a lot more. That’s when me and Cooper started training together. We ran more, ran faster, and it’s paid off since.”
Together, the demanding training regimen Angotti and Cortinas took up last year also provided both with a reliable coach each step of the way.
Both went onto represent Wa-Hi at state.
“Same reason as Cannon, I had just wanted to get in shape for basketball,” Cortinas said. “And then as I started to get better at cross country, more of my time went into it.
“Since junior year pretty much we’ve been training together almost every day,” Cortinas said. “It’s been nice to have someone out there to help push me.”
Last spring, both Angotti and Cortinas continued their success in track.
Angotti placed first running the 3,200 at two MCC meets, including one here at the Klicker Complex and later at Pasco.
Cortinas bested the 800 at four different meets as well as the 1,600 at another three. He went on to capture sixth place points at state — a big contribution to his team winning the title.
The track season also saw Wa-Hi win a distance medley relay at Pasco with Jared McAlvey running the 400, Braden Hisaw in the 800, Angotti the 1,200 and Cortinas 1,600.
Back to cross country now, both aim at returning to state this season.
Fort Walla Walla offers them a chance to really take off.