Western men\'s runners take top three spots at Lake Padden Relay

Western men\'s runners take top three spots at Lake Padden Relay

Michelle Nolan
For The Bellingham Herald

Keith Lemay admits he badly misses playing soccer, but he never suspected how much joy he would find in running at a higher level than he could have imagined in high school.
Lemay, a Western Washington University junior from Lynden Christian, is making the most of cross country after he was not recruited for college soccer.

Senior standouts Logan Senrud, Chad Portwood and Sam Brancheau combined with leadoff runner Lemay to win the 28th annual Lake Padden Relay on Saturday.

Calling themselves "Rule No. 1" since they were not competing officially for Western, their time of 53 minutes and 8 seconds was one of the better efforts in the history of one of Whatcom County's oldest recreational competitions. The record of 51:25 for four laps of the 2.59-mile course was set by a University of Washington team 20 years ago.

Lemay, who earned Academic All-America honors last season, can't believe his good fortune.

"I do miss soccer very much," said Lemay, who earned third place in the 1,500 meters at the GNAC track and field finals last spring. "But if anyone had told me when I was in high school that I would be competing at this level in cross country on a college team this good, I would have said, 'No way!' "

"Our team is looking amazing, better than we've looked in my four years here," Senrud said. "We were 13th at nationals in my freshman year. That has been our best showing since going NCAA Division II (in 1998), and I think we can improve on that."

If so, Lemay figures to be a prime factor.

"It's great being with so many talented runners and so many people to work out with during the summer," said Lemay, who qualified for three Class 2A state meets while running at LC but never cracked the top 30 finishers. "LC's program has really grown since I graduated, but we had small teams when I was there, and the guys always had to work on the farm or something like that during summers."

"Keith surprised a lot of us (in 2004)," Senrud said. "We do a really hard workout at camp to see where people are mentally. We found ourselves asking, 'Who is this guy?' He was our most outstanding freshman and really contributes a lot."

Lemay had plenty of company in spring high school soccer, which is why he never ran track at LC. He was the team's MVP as a senior and said he'll never forget playing in the state quarterfinals as a sophomore, when the Lyncs won a record-setting 22-man shootout against Sultan.

"I still sneak in an occasional recreational soccer game," Lemay said with a grin. "I really do miss the game. If I was good enough to play (in the fall) at Western, I'd have to flip a coin. But now I love cross country, too."

Erika Daligcon, a 30-year-old assistant coach at Seattle Pacific University, surprised herself by winning the 10-mile women's individual race in 1:09.20, followed by Amy Nelson. Then Daligcon was gratified to see SPU teams sweep the women's top three places.

"I'm a first-time winner here, and I love this beautiful course," she said. "What I especially love is that you notice something new on every lap. It's really inspiring."

Joel Pearson, a 2004 Ferndale High graduate, was second in the 10-mile men's individual race.

Two teams of WWU men, "Snakes on a Padden" and "Roundup," finished second and third in the men's relay in 54:08 and 54:55.
More than 400 runners in dozens of divisions competed on a perfect day for running.