Q: At last month's state cross-country championships in Pasco, Class 3A girls leader Kelsey Walker of Bellevue took a wrong turn and it cost...

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Craig Smith

Seattle Times staff writer

Q: At last month’s state cross-country championships in Pasco, Class 3A girls leader Kelsey Walker of Bellevue took a wrong turn and it cost her a state title. A few years ago, a Selah boy took a decisive wrong turn. Why can’t the Pasco people come up with a fool-proof course?

A: Meet director John Crawford says consideration is being given to putting small flags on both sides of the route to “make a path, in effect.” He said Walker went off course despite a directional flag, a painted line on the ground and a meet official whose shouts she didn’t interpret at first as trying to help her.

Crawford said he can recall only three top runners taking wrong turns in 17 years of the meet being in Pasco.

“That’s 17,000 runners,” he said.

Crawford said he has resisted the idea of having a vehicle such as a motorcycle guide runners around the course because “it might be distracting to the (lead) runner.”

He said elite runners need to pay special attention during the relaxed Friday training sessions on the Pasco course to master any turn that could be confusing in the heat of competition. This isn’t a problem for non-contenders because they will have plenty of runners ahead of them to follow.

My take: The course MUST become fool-proof and the idea of “making a path” with flags makes sense. A motorcycle or other lead vehicle also is a good idea. The brain of an athlete going all-out for a state championship doesn’t function like that same brain did sitting in a classroom two days earlier. Race officials should pretend they are dealing with third graders, even though cross-country kids tend to be among the best students in a high school. I always chuckle when I hear of a kid going off course at an early-season meet and just consider it part of the charm of the sport. There is nothing funny about going off course at the state championships.

Lance Den Boer left WSU for Central Washington.
Q: Where is Lance Den Boer, the scoring machine who graduated from Class B Sunnyside Christian in 2003 with the all-time state career scoring record of 2,851 points?

A: After riding the bench at Washington State last season, Den Boer is a sophomore at Central Washington. He scored 32 points this month in a 79-75 loss to Saint Martin’s.

Q: Since the inception of the WIAA academic state championship program in the 1988-89 school year that rewards a school in each sport and enrollment classification as “academic state champion,” which schools have won the most of these titles?

A: Here are the five leaders in each classification (many schools earned at least some of their total when in another classification):

4A — Capital (Olympia) 38, Ferris (Spokane) 33, Gonzaga Prep (Spokane) 22, Olympia 14, Mead (Spokane) 13.

3A — Mercer Island 38, Seattle Prep 37, Mark Morris (Longview) and Bellevue 19 each, Sammamish 16.

2A — Omak and Connell 20 each, Montesano 19, Ephrata 16, Lynden Christian 15.

1A — Colfax 30, Friday Harbor 18, Bellevue Christian 15, Liberty Bell (Winthrop) 14, Cascade Christian (Puyallup) 11.

B — Evergreen Lutheran (Des Moines) 23, Odessa 18, Ritzville 18, Wilbur-Creston 15, Almira-Coulee-Hartline 14.

Personal note: I’ve been eager to share the following information but no one has asked a question remotely touching upon it, so here it is, served up as this week’s dessert.

I was reading a book by “Dr. Phil” (Phillip C. McGraw) recently and was jolted at the importance of teachers and coaches when I read this:

“Here’s a shocker: Social scientists tell us that the entire origin of your self-concept, and therefore the determination of who you ultimately become in your life, can be traced to the events of a precious few days and the actions of an amazingly few key people involved in those happenings. I’m telling you that out of all of the thousands of days you have lived, out of the thousands and thousands of choices and decisions you have made, and out of all the thousands of people you have encountered, the basis of your entire life and who you have become can be boiled down to: Ten defining moments; Seven critical choices; Five pivotal people.”

My immediate thought when I read this was how sports provide some of the most emotional and unforgettable (good and bad) moments in a lifetime. It’s safe to say that folks perusing this sports page are likely to have an athletic encounter or a coach or two on their lists.

Have a question about high-school sports? Craig Smith will find the answer every Tuesday in The Times. Ask your question in one of the following ways: Voice mail (206-464-8279), snail mail (Craig Smith, Seattle Times Sports, P.O. Box 70, Seattle, WA 98111), or e-mail csmith@seattletimes.com.