GIG HARBOR — Both the Cougars boys and girls teams took top honors at the second South Sound Conference cross country meet Wednesday.
Running against nearly every team in their league, the boys tied Yelm for the top spot with 55 points and the girls won their race outright, scoring 35, well ahead of Peninsula and Gig Harbor.
Freshman Taylor Nichols outpaced the field in the girls race, finishing six seconds ahead of Belle Johnson of Gig Harbor. The Cougars were strong throughout their lineup, placing four runners in the top nine and six in the top 12.
Head coach Jeremy Duplissey has been putting his runners through tougher workouts in recent weeks, leading up to the North Thurston Ramrock 5K on Sept. 25 and Nike Portland XC on Sept. 29. Reigning league and district champion Maya Nichols finished ninth, pacing fellow runners Rissa Eilmes, Kara Shepard, Aaliya Chandler and Madeline Shetler.
“A lot of them have dead legs right now,” Duplissey said, though he expects to see plenty of personal records broken in Portland.
What could have been a rebuilding season for the boys has quickly turned into a reloading year instead. Louis Gannon and Daniel Lizon ran strong races, finishing third and sixth respectively. Seth Tower, Jamal Chandler and Samuel Christensen all finished in the top 20 and helped them tie with Yelm for first place.
Despite heavy losses to graduation, the boys will be looking to take down defending champ Gig Harbor at the league championship meet on Oct. 18.
“We lost five of our top seven from last year, but they had a bunch of guys right in the mix ready to step up,” Duplissey said. “Daniel is looking really, really strong, along with Louis.”
The South Sound Conference meets are 4,000-meter races that happen earlier in the season as runners get stretched out for the 5,000-meter championship races in October and November. It’s also a good way to see how you stack up against other runners and teams in the conference.
“It’s to get you worked into the 5K and to compete in the conference,” Duplissey said.
Team scores (boys):
Central Kitsap, 55; Yelm, 55; North Thurston, 68; Gig Harbor, 76; Peninsula, 101; Capital, 157.
Louis Gannon, third, 13:55.73; Daniel Lizon, sixth, 14:13.93; Seth Tower, 14:40.35, tenth; Jamal Chandler, 14:52.12, 16th; Samuel Christensen, 15:05.18, 20th.
Team scores (girls):
Central Kitsap, 35; Peninsula, 72; Gig Harbor, 72; Capital, 80; North Thurston, 118; Yelm, 140.
Taylor Nichols, 15:51.34, first; Rissa Eilmes, 16:48.38, sixth; Kara Shepard, 17:02.65, eighth; Maya Nichols, ninth, 17:02.90; Aaliyah Chandler, 11th, 17:04.78.