LAKEWOOD — It was a banner day on Oct. 19 at Fort Steilacoom Park for Central Kitsap’s boys and girls cross country teams, both of which braved adverse weather conditions to earn top two finishes at the South Sound Conference championship meet and advance to districts.
The girls took home a championship, finishing 22 points ahead of Peninsula and 50 points over third-place Capital, thanks to a dominant performance from their top three runners. The boys finished in second place just behind champion Gig Harbor, but most importantly, both teams will get a chance to run at the Westside Classic Oct. 28 at Chambers Creek Regional Park.
“We finished top two on both sides, that’s what we expected,” head coach Chris Baldus said. “The runners seemed to be into it, running as a team — given the weather, given the conditions, this is exactly what we expected. I’m happy, I know the girls are happy and I know the boys are happy too.”
As they have for much of the season, the girls ran extraordinarily well in their heat. Freshman Maya Nichols won the race with a time of 19:06.60, and her teammate, senior Molly Fischer, finished just a few seconds behind in 19:11.20.
The duo was so quick, they were originally mistaken for the final runners from the 4A race, which had started approximately 10 minutes prior.
Rounding out the top three was Central Kitsap’s Sophia Kohler, who outpaced her fourth place challenger, and Katelynn Strate of Yelm, with a time of 20:13.50.
Although it’s not too hard to win a meet when you take home the top three spots in a race, the Cougars were fortunate to get excellent performances from freshman Kara Shepard, who finished 10th with a time of 20:56.70, and sophomore Madeline Shetler, who came in 19th at 21:48.50.
With those five runners scoring a combined 35 — in cross country, scores are calculated by the place in which the five runners finish — it was more than enough to take home the SSC title.
“The top three ran really, really well,” Baldus said. “Our four was awesome, she moved up a ton during the race in her first league championship race, and our five did great as well.”
During the boys’ race, the wind and rain that had held off for much of the afternoon kicked up, creating tough conditions for the runners. Although the boys could not match the performance of Gig Harbor’s Bradley Peloquin, Peter Smith and Nolan Carroll, all five runners placed within the top 20 to give them a second-place finish with 60 points.
Central Kitsap was led by senior Andrew Simon, who finished in fourth place with a time of 16:28.60, and senior Joshua Geiser, who took home sixth, running the race in 16:37. Rounding out the top five were senior Ian Nye (14th, 17:12.80), junior Louis Gannon (16th, 17:18.90) and junior Zach Green (20th, 17:28.30).
“They were strong,” Baldus said. “Gig Harbor is really strong up front, so we were not able to catch them today, but our boys did what we needed them to do and we advanced. As a pack, they ran really well.”
The teams will reconvene next weekend for the district meet, which pits runners from District 3 and District 4, consisting of schools from western and southwestern Washington, all the way down to the Oregon border to the south, out to the coast of Washington to the west, and stretching towards the southern suburbs of Seattle to the east.
“We’ll recalibrate and get ready for districts next weekend,” Baldus said. “I’m sure it’s going to be another interesting weather weekend. All in all, I’m happy with what we did today.”