- Young Kwak
- Born just a year apart, Nathan and Kendra Weitz are the only brother-sister duos to race in the Foot Locker Nationals.
Weitz. For three years, no other name has appeared in local high school running summaries more often. In cross-country and track and field, siblings Nathan and Kendra Weitz routinely win league races, often win state wide invitational meets, and they’re consistently nationally ranked.
Nathan, 18, and Kendra, 17, can run a 3,200-meter race (about two miles) in the same time it takes most people to drive between Wellesley and Riverside avenues.
From a different perspective, in order to achieve the maximum points possible for the two-mile run of the U.S. Military fitness test, males need to finish in 13 minutes and females need to finish in 15:36. This year, Nathan raced the distance in 9:03 and Kendra clocked the same distance in 11:03.
Admittedly, they are not the outright fastest high school distance runners in Spokane. And, like many other high school distance runners, they won’t be competing in Bloomsday, in order to keep their legs fresh for upcoming end-of-season championship competitions. But between the siblings, who attend The Oaks Academy and run for Shadle Park High School, they own enough cross-country course records and enough total track wins to be contenders each time they step to the starting line.
Their most unique racing quality, however, might not be their speed. Rather, it’s the support and encouragement they give one another. Each says they understand the pressure the other is facing, and they know their sibling well enough to cheer them on.
Shadle High School track coach Bob Isitt shrugs off head-to-head comparisons between the two and wisely notes such comments could possibly single out the kids. But, with a grin, he does say, “Nathan is a little more mischievous, and Kendra is probably the better driver.”
Isitt goes on to say, “Both are strong in their Christian faith. Both are extremely kind, and both are tough as nails when the gun goes off.”
While it’s easy for a coach to say something positive, the greatest testament can be found in what their competitors report. Andrew Gardner, from Mead High School, holds just as many wins and records as the Weitzes, and he has raced against Nathan dozens of times.
“Nathan is one of my best friends among the runners of the GSL. Even though Nathan and Kendra have had some setbacks and injuries, they always fight through and do their best, and I am so inspired, because they have such positive attitudes regardless of the outcome of the race,” says Gardner.
Spokane’s junior distance running program remains unique compared to the entire country. An ESPN running analyst once called Spokane’s high school distance program “the other Rift Valley,” referring to the famous homeland of many of the greatest Kenyan runners in the past two decades. It’s no longer uncommon for several local harriers to be ranked nationally. Besides Andrew, Nathan and Kendra, runners such as Katie Knight, Katie Morris, Kai Wilmot and Keith Williams continue to advance the quality and superior caliber of the Inland Northwest’s distance running.
Yet, none of these kids will be running in Bloomsday.
“If you have a goal, like a Washington state title, then Bloomsday just doesn’t fit into your schedule,” says Kendra. “I really like Bloomsday, and I ran it in junior high, but I can’t do it right now.”
In 2008, when Nathan and Kendra last ran Bloomsday, they each won their age group. Nathan blitzed the course in 44:10 at age 14, and Kendra raced it in 47:24 at age 13.
While the siblings don’t really run “together,” they’re always on the same team, and they’ve seen the best and worst of each other’s races, from state championships to being kicked with spikes or knocked down in a grueling race.
The Weitzes do hold one record no one else can touch.
Each year, a select field of cross-country runners qualifies for one of four Regional Foot Locker Championship races. Within that tiny field, a portion of the regional runners qualifies for the Foot Locker Nationals. Indeed, brother-brother pairs and sister-sister pairs had qualified for the prestigious race in the same year. But back in 2010, the Weitzes became the first-ever brother-sister siblings to qualify for nationals in the same season.
By now, the siblings are used to the expectations their talent has produced.
“Sometimes people just assume we’re going to win, and that’s not always the case. But we always do our best to prove them right,” says Nathan.