Katie Bianchini & Megan Beauchene
Washington cross country fans were treated to near ideal conditions at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. The temperature was pleasant & in the fifties and the rain, which fell two hours ago for about ten minutes, held off throughout the day. Even the breeze, which had been quite noticeable prior to the race, had been reduced to a slight current, which gently wafted through the trees. With the weatherman doing his part, it was up to the remarkably strong crop of runners to complete the harrier picture, which they did in spades. The 3A girls’ race was the event with the greatest national impact, given that Amy-Eloise Neale and Katie Knight would face each other in their state XC careers. Amy- Eloise had annexed the first two editions of their series but Katie stormed back as a junior as she rushed over the course on the way to a convincing victory and in course record time (17:10). Adding to the suspense was the fact that they both entered the race undefeated and essentially untested. Although there was the added suspense of conjecturing how the race would evolve, it did not take long to assess the strategy of Neale bolted shortly after the crack of the starter’s pistol. She was determined that the race would be far different from that of last year, Amy-Eloise set a brisk pace, which only Knight would accept. The split at the mile was about 5:16, which was quite brisk. They raced well ahead of Katie Bianchini, who, as usual, was well ahead of the rest of the field. KB held about a twenty meter lead of the chase pack, which already had been whittled down to Megan Beauchene of Kamiakin, Nicole Goecke of Prairie and Haley Suarez of Meadowlake. The rest of the field was further back and apparently resigned to a battle for positions near the second ten.
The course makes a horseshoe turn about 150 meters past the mile mark and by the time that Neale had reached the point below the mile marker she had opened up a distinct lead, while the positions remained essentially the same. When next viewed off in the distance running up a moderate grade Neale had established a lead of about fifty meters. Bianchini remained in her position relative to the rest of the field, while Beauchene was beginning to remove herself from her rivals. As the race continued to progress, Neale continued to widen her lead over Knight. She reached the two-and-a-half mile mark in 13:56 and had a 28 second margin over Knight, who in turn had a 22 second lead over Bianchini. Megan Beauchene was now in control of fourth place.
neale heads for home
At that point it was patently obvious, that something stunning would have to occur for Neale to lose and by the time she raced up the final hill approaching the three-mile mark, that was not going to happen. Her final time was a course record of 17:03.6. Amy admitted that the goal in the back of her mind had been to dip under seventeen and the final mark was tantalizingly close but of course it would have merely been additional icing on a wonderful cake. Knight earned second in a fine 17:44 – a time which far more often than not would have resulted in a victory. Katie Bianchini also dipped under the eighteen minute mark with her 17:58, which seemed to deserve better than third place and she did in a way, for her placemen contributed mightily to Glacier Peak’s championship team. Megan Beauchene, a sophomore running cross country for the first season by herself in fourth with a time of 18:19 and in so doing led her team to a second place finish – the highest in school history.
Haley Suarez ran 18:28, which was good for fifth and a six second gap over Andrea Masterson of Lakeside. Nicole Goecke faded a bit after her quick start but still finished in seventh with 18:53 and Rebe Delacruz-Gunderson placed ninth a second later. Makena Endebrock of Mt. Spokane earned ninth in 18:57 and Makenna Bravo of Peninsula secured eleventh with 19:04. Four-time state qualifier Michelle Fletcher ended up her career in 19:08 to round out the top dozen and was a crucial part of Kamiakin’s second place trophy effort. Glacier Peak easily secured the victory with a low of 66 points, while Kamiakin slipped past Peninsula 141 – 142. Peninsula’s second runner was Sarah Manning, who placed 16th. Prairie was close behind with 146 points and was led by the afore-mentioned Goecke and Lindsey Tompkins, who placed 17th.
Efraimson & McPhee plus Fuller & Olson
The 4A girls’ race followed a pattern similar to that of their 3A counterparts in that the two leading candidates extricated themselves from the pack early. In this case it was Alexa Efraimson of Camas and Jordan McPhee of Mt. Rainier, who separated themselves early from all challengers. Both runners have had national attention, so their showdown was somewhat expected. Alexa had a break-out freshman track campaign after being over-shadowed during the XC season by Neale & Knight, although she had placed third. Jordan was the defending 4A champion and had gone under the former course record in doing so but then she added a great race at Foot Locker West to earn a trip to sunny San Diego. Although she had not been quite as sharp this fall, she has raced well but Efraimson pushed the pace and forced McPhee to accept her tempo. To her credit Jordan accepted the challenge and remained just off her rival’s shoulder, while the rest of the field was left to debate the third place position.
Efraimson led through the first mile and crossed the mark in about 5:25 with McPhee still almost two close to pick out in the picture. Alexis Fuller of Union had asserted herself during the previous 800 meters to establish a fifteen meter lead over Chandler Olson of Woodinville, who held a good seven meter gap over a pack of seven runners, which included Alissa Pudlitzke of Camas and Sofia Kane of Olympia. It was not much longer, however, before things began to change and the Camas leader began to break away from her rival and she powered through the two mile mark in 11:18. McPhee was a distant second in 11:36, although she seemed secured in second position. Alexis Fuller then appeared to be in control of third place but Sofia Kane had made a big move forward to establish herself in a solid fourth place.
Although Efraimson appeared to have the race well in hand, McPhee fought back in the next half mile to cut her rival’s lead to just ten seconds with Alexa passing the 2½ M marker in 14:14, but the effort apparently took its toll, because Alexa widened her lead down the stretch before coming home in 17:34. McPhee raced home in 18:10, yet no one negotiated the final four hundred meters faster than Alexis Fuller, who oozed strength down the stretch for a third place time of 18:16. Sofia Kane retained her fourth place position down the final stretch finishing with a time of 18:20, while Alissa Pudlitzke sped down the final stretch to garner fifth in 18:30 edging Rose Christian by a second. Chandler Olson, who had been positioned well early showed a bit of strain in the closing stages but one has to appreciate her willingness to gamble and not just settle for caution. Daryl Phill of Bellarmine Prep, who had been well behind early, moved up steadily to garner eighth in 18:34 and get BP off to a good start against its rival Tahoma, whose leader Elizabeth Oosterhout finished a second later. She edged Kyra Burke of Inglemoor by just half a second and then Elise Tello of Eisenhower placed eleventh in 18:36. Olivia Mancl of Roosevelt came in twelfth with 18:39 and then Tahoma got a real boost in its effort by the 13th place position of Delaney Tiernan. Camas pretty much shut the door on the team race struggle, when Maddie Woodson & Megan Napier cruised home in 14th & 15th place respectfully. As with all state races it is tough to run, when things are not quite right and that certainly was the case for Lindsey Bradley of Richland, who could have anticipated a much higher finish had she not been ill on race day, yet she persevered and came home in 24th place. She finished just ahead of Hannah Derby of Bellarmine, who also experienced an off day, which all of us former runners can relate but still they secured valuable points for their teams with Bellarmine finishing third with 129 points behind Tahoma, while Richland finished fourth with 180 points.
Baltazar leads Gibson & Grove
Last year Marcus Dickson moved boldly to the front in the 2A race and led most of the way until both Patrick Gibson of Squalicum & Poli Baltazar of Aberdeen swept past around the three mile mark. Gibson earned the victory and Baltazar placed second but this fall Dickson had moved on to the collegiate level, it appeared that the top two from 2011 would renew their rivalry. That being the case the question in 2012 centered on how the race might unfold. What ensued was a renewal of the rivalry but instead of a repeat of the races already covered with a pair racing to the front and vying for the crown, there was a pack at the mile mark. Poli Baltazar was the titular leader with a first mile time of around 4:48. Immediately behind Poli loomed Devon Grove of Lake Washington, who was glancing to his side at this point to his side where Pat Gibson raced. Right behind were Isaac Stinchfield & Sean Eustis of Washougal, who were separated at that point by Scott Kopczynski of East Valley (Spokane).
By the time they had completed the horseshoe turn Baltazar had assumed the lead with Grove assuming the second position. About three to four meters back ran the Washougal duo plus Kopczynski & Gibson. Shortly after they raced out of sight the anticipated battle between the old rivals began in earnest & it appeared that both took the lead at times, although Baltazar seemed to be the main pusher of the pace. The key element in the race was the fact that point the pair had moved well enough ahead of their pursuers that it was hard to comprehend that anyone else could bridge the gap. It was in the third mile, where Gibson forced the issue and assumed command of the race but Baltazar remained in contact. Gibson was flying as he cleared the final mile marker on his way to the finish, while Baltazar was straining not to yield ground in the home stretch. It was inspirational to watch Gibson race ahead with confidence, while at the same time realizing that even at that late point he was conceding nothing. The final verdict saw Gibson win a clear cut victory in 15:13, a 15 second improvement over 2011, while Baltazar ran a fine 15:16. Both will move on to their ultimate goal of Foot Locker, where they both will have a very solid change to secure a trip to California.
Conner Johnson of Sehome placed third in 15:37 just ahead of a string of finishers and Sean Eustis of Washougal earned fourth second ahead of Joe Charbonneau, who moved late to secure fifth & edged Devon Grove. Reed Henderson of Sehome garnered sixth in 15:46 and Daniel Amann of Deer Park followed with 15:47. Isaac Stinchfield gave Washougal two runners in the top ten and Logan Orndorf of Cedarcrest rounded out the top ten. Chris Fredlund of Squalicum came in eleventh in 16:00 and Scott Kopczynski took 12th. The team scores looked a bit like a Bellingham city meet with Sehome taking the victory with 81 points, while Bellingham & Squalicum had 93 and 102 respectively.
Hardy & Dressel
The 3A boys’ race witnessed another two-person struggle but this time the main components were Joe Hardy of Seattle Prep and John Dressel of Mt. Spokane. At the mile they held a good twenty meter lead over Tanner Anderson of North Central, Andrew Foerder of Nathan Hale, Nick Mounier of Kelso, Jeevan Philip of Hanford and Jack Pearce of Mountlake Terrace. Listing just those runners should not be construed as being the same as the total pack at the time but they were the only runners, who could be picked out a group that included about twenty runners.
Hardy gained five meters during the horseshoe portion and he continued to draw away from Dressel. Interestingly enough the race was predicated very much by the fact that his most likely challenger Kai Wilmot of North Central was injured and was unable to race. Hardy noted that Wilmot’s absence changed his strategy from a ‘wait and kick’ strategy to one of taking the race to his opponents and by mid-race he had opened up a good twenty meter margin over Dressel, who held about the same gap over a trio of challengers, which included Anderson plus Nicholas Hauger of Shadle Park & Spike Sievert of Bellevue. He hit the two mile mark in 9:48 with a five second margin over Dressel.
He crossed the finish line in 15:18 and Dressel followed in 15:31. Anderson finished well to take third only three seconds later, while Hauger followed in fourth with 15:42 edging Spike Sievert. Andrew Foerder placed sixth in 15:43 and Oliver Reed of North Central finished seventh another four seconds later. Connor Jungkuntz of Ferndale (15:48) secured eighth with Keith Williams of North Central only a half second behind him in ninth place. Austin Oser of Kamiakin was tenth with a solid 15:49 and Ahmed Ibrahim of Kamiakin ran 15:50 for eleventh. Twelfth went to Isaac Kitzan of North Central, which easily won the team race with 38 points despite the absence of its leader Wilmot. Kamiakin placed second with 75 points and Nathan hale edged Seattle prep 91 to 93.
Aquino, Skay & Holland
The girls’ 2A race had a somewhat surprising leader with Brittany Aquino of East Valley Spokane taking out the pace. She held the lead through a mile in 5:40 and McCall Skay of West Valley – Spokane followed about seven meters back with Sanne Holland right behind her. A bit further back ran the trio of Brittany Gappa of Squalicum defending champion Emily Pittis of Sehome and RaynJoy Norton of Burlington-Edison.
The pond, which is by the two mile mark was reached in 12:58, saw Pittis in a battle for first, while only five meters back another three runners remained in contact. The closeness of the contest had ended by the 2 ½ mile mark, because Pittis had become in charge with a 35 meter lead and she rolled home in 18:17, which was essentially the same as her winning clocking last year. Sanne Holland breezed home with a secure second place time of 18:30 and Brittany Aquino acquitted herself well taking third in 18:36. Reagan Colyer of North Kitsap earned fourth in 18:45, while Brittany Gappa, who was hampered by physical problems late in the season, soldiered home for her team as well as herself to garner fifth in 18:51. McKall Skay took sixth in 18:55 and RaynJoy Norton followed in seventh a second later. There was a fair wait until Kathleen Ramsey of North Kitsap placed 8th in 19:12 and Rebekah Oviatt of Sehome followed in 9th (19:22). Tenth went to Lauren Pierson of Capital in 19:26. Sehome, whose Abby Cibula claimed 11th in 19:32, won the team struggle with a low of 40 points and marked a double victory for girls & guys. Bellingham was led by Bekah Jensen, who ran 19:53, and earned second by displaying fine pack running with its members placing between 17th & 29th in the team scoring. Capital brought home third place laurels with 122 points.
The girls’ 1A race saw Sally Larson of Cedar Park Christian lead at the mile in 5:59. Hazel Carr of the Northwest School gave chase and made sure that the leader never felt secure but in the end it was Larson, who claimed the victory in 18:38. Carr finished in second for the second year in a row and Kacey Kemper of King’s followed her just a second later taking third in 18:42. Lindy Jacobson of Lakeside edged Gabrielle Rudolph of Montesano with both credited with versions of 19:08.
Sierra Speiker of Oroville took the lead early in the 1B race and kept it the rest of the way coming home in 18:58. She was the only runner in the race to break nineteen minutes, while Anna Henry of Northwest Christian Lacey placed second alone in 19:08. Lacey once again won the team race & was aided by Hailey Bredeson, who placed third. In the 1A race for guys Dillon Quintana of Mt. Baker and Tom Bradley of Blaine dueled through the stretch with both finishing in versions of 15:50 with Dillon taking the victory. Charles Wright Academy, which was led by Ruben Riordan’s third place finish in 16:07, won the team battle with 87 points, while Lakeside, led by Ryan Coffman’s sixth place finish, earned second with 90 points. Stephen Bottoms of Onalaska ran away with the 1B race with 15:48 with Chandler Teigen annexing second (16:22). Skyler Larson (16:25) earned third and was the point man for yet another team triumph by Tri-Cities Prep, which had 53 points.
The boys’ 4A race was the final event of the day and it went as expected in some ways, while it was also quite surprising in others. Andrew Gardner of Mead is a two-time Foot Locker finalist and his senior season has been spectacular with two course records. After placing second in the race the previous two years he was intent on adding his name on the list of State champions, so his being in the lead was hardly a surprise. Gardner had thoughts of breaking fifteen minutes, and accordingly he set a brisk pace of 5:35. It was a brisk space, yet he had not separated himself from the pack. One had to wonder about the strategy of others for it was a stiff pace and a number of the members of the pack had to be straining just to remain with the leader. What was almost stunning was how ‘within himself’ Gardner seemed to be. He appeared quite relaxed and he was certainly fluid, when he passed me at that point. Running a close second was Sumner Goodwin of Lewis & Clark plus Wolfgang Beck of Gig Harbor. Just behind, but a part of the lead group, were Aaron Roe of Henry Jackson, and Mark Tedder of Battle Ground. Well removed from that group was a second chase pack, that included Colby Gilbert of Skyview, Jamie Coughlin of Garfield & Logan Carroll of Gig Harbor among a list of probably nine others. Also in the mix were Riley Campbell of Tahoma, Trevor Love of Auburn Riverside & Andrew Canavan of Olympia.
The sharp little loop-around found Gardner beginning to open a gap, while Goodwin attempted to remain with him. Beck, who was still running easily, made the decision to back off the pace a bit letting Gardner do his thing, while he focused on making sure he ran his own race. Still Beck remained in third ahead of Tedder and Roe. Removed from that group was the second pack, which also appeared to be biding its time waiting until the right time to begin the real racing.
There would be no late challenge to Gardner, as Jacob Smith had managed last year, and the only question, as he neared the three mile mark was could he get under the fifteen minute barrier. With no aid it would have been most difficult but he made it close finishing with a time of 15:02, which broke the 4A record set by Smith last year of 15:03. It was not far removed from the 14:58 registered by Anthony Armstrong last year. Beck, meanwhile, played his hand well, and cruised home looking confident as he finished second in a fine 15:16. Contrasted with Beck’s early travel near the front Colby Gilbert had laid off the pace realizing it was brisk and that others would pay a price and he moved up in the later stages of the race. As he neared the three mile mark he was barely ahead of Jamie Coughlin of Garfield and a good twenty meters behind Sumner Goodwin, who remained in third. So strong was Gilbert that he surged away from Coughlin and then swept past the tiring Goodwin to claim third in 15:21, which gave him a three second margin over Goodwin, who ran a valiant race. Coughlin followed in fifth two seconds later in 15:26. Aaron Roe, who is but a sophomore, garnered sixth with 15:35 and Logan Carroll of Gig Harbor came home seventh with 15:38. Mark Tedder took 8th in 15:39 with a three second gap over Travis Thorne of Joel Ferris. Dylan Hayes of Garfield rounded out the top ten with 15:43 nipping Logan Giese of Central Valley, who was credited with the same time. Keegan Symmes of Skyline, who officials told me had health issues, which compromised him finished 12th in 15:46.
Gardner, Goodwin, Beck, Tedder & Roe
Central Valley won the team race with 89 points to easily top the 130 of Eisenhower. Ike incidentally displayed a fine pack, as their first runner Drew Schreiber placed 24th. Gig harbor finished third with 144 points, and Lewis & Clark was fourth with 152.
All in all it was a grand day of racing. There was so much to appreciate that it was rather surprising, when I realized that the 4A boys’ race was next and it was the last race of the day. With awards being spread between races for the most part there was no ‘down time’ with nothing happening. Quite the contrary there always seemed to be something happening of interest and it makes this sport more enjoyable even than track. The other thing that made the day seem to go faster was the effort of the runners, who battled down the stretch even though they were far behind the leaders. There were many, who battled through the stretch to gain one more position or one less second. It is a thing of beauty to watch the faces of determination even on those for whom the vagaries of the sport did not give them their ‘A’ game. It is a fact of life that things always do not go as planned or as hoped, yet the young contestants seemed intent to do their best even under duress and there was a fairly large crowd on hand to cheer their efforts. There is much to love about the harrier experience and it was on display at Pasco.