North Kitsap Looks to Repeat Historic Double Dip

NK Looks to Repeat Historic Double Dip

Cross Country | The Vikings are trying to send both their boys and girls teams back to state.

By Jeff Graham, For the Kitsap Sun
August 31, 2006


It's mid-August and North Kitsap's cross-country team is stretching, having just completed a two-hour session that concluded with a nine-mile jaunt throughout the streets of Poulsbo.

The champion of the day's practice run wasn't one of the Vikings' top runners from a season ago. Instead, it was a young man, inconspicuously dressed in a black t-shirt, shorts and running shoes — their coach, Lee Hodin.

\"I've got to make sure these kids don't get lost,\" he said.

A former standout runner at Saint John's University in Minnesota, the 28-year-old coach always seems to find his way to the front of the pack during training runs.

\"I've beaten him in workout, but I haven't even come close in a race. He's pretty fast,\" said junior Nick Cameron. \"He normally just tries to push people.\"

The Vikings are hoping Hodin's pushing continues to pay off. It did in 2005, when North Kitsap's boys and girls teams both qualified for the Class 4A state meet for the first time in school history.

\"We were both Cinderella teams last year,\" Hodin said. \"We barely made it through.\"

The girls team scored 233 points at the West Central District meet, earning the seventh and final state berth and first since 1988. Junior Kelly Cates still recalls the meet announcer counting down the list of state qualifiers.

\"We knew it was going to be really close,\" said Cates, whose team tied for seventh with Heritage, yet earned its state berth on a tiebreaker.

North Kitsap's boys team also placed seventh with 260 points, gaining its second state berth – the first was in 1974 – despite running a below-average race.

\"All the guys were pretty much (ticked) off because we didn't think we made it,\" Cameron said. \"When he heard we did, everybody freaked out. I think we were a little bit embarrassed by the way we acted.\"

The Vikings weren't so much embarrassed as overwhelmed the next, week when they fell flat at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

\"State is really intimidating the first time,\" Cates explained. \"It's pretty scary. You are there and there are hundreds of people in your race alone.\"

Along with being unnerved, Cameron feels the team wasn't prepared to race because – unlike previous meets – it hadn't set goals for the state meet.

Hodin agreed with Cameron's assessment.

\"Their goal was to get to state and not that next step,\" Hodin said. \"And that's what happens with a lot of runners. They get to state and they are on the starting line and they are like, 'Well, I really didn't think this through.'\"

Although the Vikings gained valuable experience last season, Hodin warned that 2006 will be another uphill battle in terms of post-season advancement.

\"I think this year is the same. It's just as much of a fight as ever,\" Hodin said. \"Talent-wise, it's there. Work ethic, it's there. It's just like last year, we need to put it all together. I think the year before 2005, we had enough talent to go to state, we just didn't put it together.\"

Leading the way on the boys' side will be Cameron, senior Cody Bradwell and junior Paul Coulter. Coulter turned in the Vikings' fastest time (17 minutes, 3 seconds) at the state meet, while Cameron (17:40) and Bradwell (17:06) should continue to post strong times. Other runners Hodin will be counting are seniors Zac Simmons and Brian Fagan, junior Ray Reedy and sophomore Lars Blazina.

Hodin returns a strong junior class on the girls' side, including Cates, Jen Gregg, Erica Warkus and Alycia Bazar. Hodin feels Cates, who ran 20:21 at the 2005 state meet, and Gregg could both finish in the top 15 in Narrows Bridge League competition this year.

Sophomores Shawna Williams and Nicole Bazar and freshmen Ruby Roberts and Hilary Leonard are among NK's other top runners. Hodin is especially high on Roberts, who posted a 5:22 mile as an eighth grader last year.

Among the team's top early-season meets are the Salt Creek Invitational in Port Angeles on Sept. 16 and the Sunfair Invitational in Yakima on Sept. 30.

At Salt Creek, the team will camp out for two nights and participate in a Saturday race, while Sunfair will provide some of the best competition Washington has to offer.

\"It's pretty much the biggest meet in the state,\" Hodin said. \"There are about a hundred teams there. You get to see how you measure up against the big dogs.\"