UNIVERSITY PLACE — Putting it in her own terms, it was not until seventh grade that Rachel Newhard could run “a good mile.” But now in ninth grade, she is a district champion.
The diminutive freshman won the 1A title with a time of 20:27.30 at Chambers Bay on Oct. 28, finishing more than 20 seconds ahead of her closest competitor.
After the race, Newhard recalled her decision to start running cross country two years ago. Her twin sister chose to play volleyball, but Newhard did not enjoy it and wanted to try a different fall sport.
“I didn’t like staying home by myself, so I chose cross country and I ended up liking it,” said Newhard.
As luck would have it, Newhard turned out to be a naturally-gifted runner and she has just begun to scratch the surface of her potential. Her ninth grade season saw her win two tri-meets, finish third at the Olympic League championships and take home fourth in her race at the Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational, at which she set a personal record of 19:40.50 in the 5,000 meter race.
And now she can add a district crown to her resume.
“It was pretty exciting,” Klahowya head coach Marty Krafcik said of Newhard’s win. “I was trying to think back, it’s been a long time since we had a district champion. I believe it was Sierra Cook around 2005. It has certainly been over ten years.”
Newhard and her teammates have also advanced to the state championship meet on Nov. 4, beating out Port Townsend for the second qualifying spot. Senior Savannah Smith finished in tenth with a time of 22:08.40 and Hannah Meehan came in 13th, running the course in 22:28.90. Katherine Callender (15th, 23:06.30) and Erin Tammen (21st, 25:27) rounded out the top five.
Led by Lucas Becker, the Klahowya boys also qualified for the state meet, finishing second to Charles Wright Academy. Becker finished fourth, just behind a pair of Charles Wright runners, with a time of 17:17.80.
Becker said the course was a little slower and more difficult than many of the other courses used in the West Sound, but he noted most runners were running times that were not as good as their personal bests.
“We were about seven points away from Charles Wright,” said Becker. “That’s what we wanted, to get as close to them as possible. Our main goal was getting the team to state.”
Freshman Jaeden Ellis ran well, finishing tenth in 18:00.20, as did junior Samuel Cook, who was just behind his teammate in 11th with a time of 18:18.10. Wyatt Vertefeuille and Tanyr Gagnon also took home top 20 finishes.
“We thought going in, that both teams if ran their average races, they would finish second,” said Krafcik. “So the message was to just go out there and run your race.”