POULSBO — Usually cross country runners have to worry about other runners.
But at last week’s district cross country meet in Tumwater, North Kitsap’s Jim Robson, Michael Chuol, and Robyn Embrey had another opponent to keep in mind — the course itself.
The trio of Vikings had to contend with a rain-soaked, muddy Tumwater Valley Golf course, which slowed down their times and made them wary of mud and slippery grass.
“We walked out with mushy shoes,” said coach Helen Smith.
Despite the challenges, Robson and Chuol finished well enough to move on to state competition.
Robson finished 13th overall with a time of 16:13.
Chuol finished 30th with a time of 16:27.
Embrey finished 60th among girls with a time of 20:46.06.
The top 35 individual finishers will compete at state next weekend in Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course.
The team will travel to Pasco on Friday to test the course. The race will be held Saturday.
Robson hopes the conditions will be better than those last week.
“it was really difficult,” he said. “you want to run as fast as you can, but in your subconscious you don’t want to fall.”
“It was hard,” said Chuol. “If you run very fast you fall down because there’s a lot of mud and water.”
Robson said he hoped to take off quickly, place himself with the top 10 or 15 runners, and cruise until the third mile, when he could sprint past some of the other runners.
He said it was difficult because other runners also sprinted off to a quick lead.
Smith was happy with her runners’ strategy.
“We talked beforehand about qualifying — that was the most important thing,” she said. “They did what they needed to do.”
Now that the season is almost over, first-year head coach Smith said she wants to start building the program more aggressively.
“We have individual changes to make,” she said. “But overall, we were successful with these two (Chuol and Robson). They’re peaking at the right time, but they should improve dramatically for next year.”
Smith hopes the whole team will improve. To that end she is encouraging more year-round conditioning, including more winter and summer conditioning.
She also wants to recruit more younger runners.
“I want to hit the junior high and get more junior high kids involved,” she said.
But before that, Chuol and Robson will wait for the starting gun on Saturday.
How do they hope to do?
“I’m just running,” Robson said. “I get to say I ran in state, so any place I get is good.”