Tides top competition at cross country championships

LAKEWOOD — When it comes to cross country in the Narrows League, it’s Gig Harbor and everybody else. And while North Kitsap didn’t exactly close the gap between itself and the Tides, the Vikings were among the strongest boys and girls teams Wednesday at the Narrows League Cross Country Championships at Fort Steilacoom Park.

Led by sophomore Hilary Leonard, who placed eighth in the girls 5-kilometer run at 19 minutes, 10.58 seconds, five Vikings placed among the top 30 to qualify for the Oct. 27 district meet at American Lake Golf Course in Lakewood. Annelise Weinmann finished at 19:35.57 in 10th place, followed by Kelly Cates (20:08.37, 14th), Kendall Rock (20:14.25, 16th) and Jennifer Gregg (20:31.35, 23rd).

Those finishes helped the Vikings come in third with 71 points behind Gig Harbor (37) and Bellarmine Prep (68), which had the top finisher in Nicole Cochran (18:08.21). Because NK placed in the top six, the entire team will compete at districts for an opportunity to advance to state.

Leonard said she improved her time by at least two minutes from a year ago at Fort Steilacoom, but felt more fortunate she was able to avoid injury.

“Right in front of the hill, I tripped on a root and just kind of stumbled,” she said. “I didn’t hit the ground, but it was a pretty bad stumble.”

The 5-foot-3 Leonard said she was able to regain her balance without losing her position. She hopes growing a few inches — or feet — will help make her more competitive in the future.

“My goal, I’ve been telling people, I’m going to be seven-two but I’m not quite there yet,” she said. “I drink chocolate milk every day.”

While she still has to grow in a literal sense, Leonard figuratively believes her teammates have grown in the last year and should advance to the Nov. 3 state tournament at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

The boys team just might join them, too. NK finished second with 88 points behind Gig Harbor’s 36.

The Vikings placed six runners in the top 30, led by Paul Coulter (16:26.19, eighth). Then came Ray Reedy 16:32.66), followed by Tyler Spear (17:01.64, 21st), Tabor Reedy (17:03.35, 23rd), Nick Cameron (17:13.45, 27th) and Joel Brose (17:13.77, 28th).

“I wanted to beat (South Kitsap’s) Jon Phillips, but he beat me at the end,” Coulter said. “I was catching up, but he was kicking a lot faster than I did. But I was pretty happy with it.”