LAKEWOOD — The South Kitsap cross country teams battled a little sickness and some bad weather, but the results were positive on both sides as the boys and girls teams were able to advance to districts after their performances at the South Puget Sound League championship meet on Oct. 19.
The girls team finished in a close third place behind Emerald Ridge and Curtis, despite missing one of their top runners, and the boys finished in sixth, taking home the last qualifying spot for the Oct. 28 Westside Classic.
The South Kitsap girls took home third, just nine points behind second place Curtis and ten points behind winners Emerald Ridge.
The Wolves were without freshman Evelyn Collins-Winn, who has finished first or second among South Kitsap runners for most of the season and was coming off a personal best in the 5,000 meters at the Nike Hole in the Wall, was sidelined due to food poisoning. A top performance from her could have swung the results a different way, but it speaks to the level of confidence the girls have in each other, as they believed they could win the meet anyway.
“There’s not much you can do about that,” said head coach Ed Santos. “But the girls went into the race thinking they could win the meet as a team even without her, and they ran well. They’re moving on to districts.”
Fortunately, junior Paxton DePoe turned in an outstanding performance, finishing sixth overall with a time of 19:27.60 to lead South Kitsap, which placed five runners in the top 15. Fellow junior Kristina Ihlen clocked in at 20:02.40, which put her in ninth place; junior Eugenia Palko was just behind in 11th place with a time of 20:16.50; and junior Casandra Hebert and freshman Emma Orser came across the line in 14th and 15th place respectively with times of 20:32.10 and 20:39.90.
“It was difficult not having Evelyn to run with us, but we still had some strong runners after that,” said DePoe after the race. “It was nice to bring them up and have them run with us. I’m excited for next week because we’ll have her back, and we know how we want to race — the times today weren’t necessarily quick, but we did what we planned to do, so I’m excited for next week.”
Expectations are high for the girls team, which has had the season-long goal of doing well at the state championship meet on Nov. 4.
“They’ve gone the last two years,” said Santos. “If we do our job, we’ll put ourselves in really good position to qualify [for states]. The girls are in a good position.”
The boys also had a couple of runners feeling a little under the weather, but battled through the rain and wind that kicked up during their race to finish in sixth, just two points behind fifth place Sumner and four points behind fourth place Puyallup.
Junior Zach Grams finished seventh with a time of 16:22.40 and sophomore Jacob Laws came in 14th at 16:49. Rounding out the Wolves’ top five were juniors Kevin McDermott (33rd, 17:23.30), Shawn Clough (34th, 17:25.80) and Jacob Simon (39th, 17:32.10).
Santos said the boys were a little dissapointed with their finish, as they had hoped to capture third or fourth, though they were short of that goal by only a few points.
“I was talking about this to the boys when we got back,” said Santos. “All that means is, if we have one or two run ten seconds faster, we’re fourth, almost third in the meet. We are right on the edge. If we run well we can be in the top seven at districts. That’s been the goal since June, and hopefully that will happen.”
Indeed, the goal of reaching the state championship meet for the first time since 2004 is still within reach. And the team is excited with how every runner has improved as the fall season has gone on.
“We’ve progressed really well,” said Grams. “Compared to last year, we’re a much better team, everyone is improving a lot and I’m excited to see how our team does next year and in the future.”
— Mark Krulish is a reporter for Kitsap News Group. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.