BELLINGHAM - A year ago, Sehome's Kirby Overman stumbled less than 200 yards from the finish line at the Sehome Invitational, preventing him from battling it out for a win.
Squalicum's Chris Fredlund didn't even get the chance to compete last year, because of "a couple of setbacks," he said.
Both of them made up for it on a sunny Saturday, Sept. 8, at Civic Stadium, as Overman won the sophomore boys' race and Fredlund claimed the junior boys' title at the third running of the Sehome Invitational. And to show how much it meant to them, each got an enthusiastic hug shortly after crossing the finish line - Overman's from older brother Clinton and Fredlund's from Storm teammate Patrick Gibson, who later won the senior boys' race.
In fact, Bellingham city schools made it a clean sweep of the boys' races, as Bellingham's Sam Gillman won the freshman boys' race. Sehome's defending Class 2A state champion Emily Pittis was the only Whatcom County girls' winner, though, in the sophomore race.
"This feels real good," Fredlund said. "It's a confidence booster. Now I can go out and focus on the next couple of races."
Overman's victory was especially sweet, considering it was his first varsity victory.
"I worked so hard for this," he said. "I'm kind of tired right now. It still feels good, but I know it's going to feel a whole lot better later on."
Overman said the pace of the sophomore race was slow early, so he jumped at a chance to take the lead on a downhill section of the course and never looked back. He turned in a time of 10 minutes, 34.55 seconds on the two-mile course to beat out Oak Harbor's John Rodeheffer, whom Overman finished second to in last year's freshman race.
While Overman used a downhill portion of the course to make his move, Fredlund said he used the course's biggest uphill to take control of the junior race - a move he's spent a summer preparing to make.
"We've been working hills all summer, running Whatcom Falls Park and up Galbraith Mountain," Fredlund said. "When we got to the hill, I was just behind, so I just decided to go for it."
The move paid off, as Fredlund won in a time of 10:28.03, more than five seconds ahead of Kamiak's Jerry Behrens.
While Saturday's wins were the first for Fredlund and Overman, Gibson has won at the meet all three years of its existence. And he had to face a star-studded field to win on Saturday.
In addition to facing his normal Northwest Conference senior rivals, Gibson also had to deal with Aberdeen's Poli Baltazar, who was hungry to beat Gibson after finishing second to him at the 2A state championships last fall.
"It's kind of cool to win these kinds of races," Gibson said. "I was happy to get to run against all those good guys. It's fun to race the best guys in the state every week."
Gibson said he made his move at about the one-mile mark and never looked back, as he won in 9:55.36, more than two second ahead of Baltazar. Whatcom County rivals Tom Bradley (Blaine) and Dillon Quintana (Mount Baker) were fourth and fifth, respectively, in a closely packed race.
Before he took to the course for the first time in the freshmen race, Gillman said he sat down with his coaches to talk strategy.
"My coaches wanted me to make my move at the discus pit (after the first lap around the track) and hold it for 150 meters," Gillman said.
Despite finding himself "about 30th" on the first lap, Gillman did just that, and before long, found himself in the lead. He ended up winning in 11:30.23.
Like Gibson, Pittis was a repeat winner, as she claimed the girls' sophomore race in 12:10.69.
"The first race of the year, it's always just nice to get out and run," Pittis said. "So far, I've just been focusing on working with my teammates and trying to make the team better. We haven't even begun to think about getting back to state yet. ... I'm so proud of how these girls have worked their butts off this summer."
That extra effort helped the Mariners put a scare into nationally ranked Glacier Peak for the girls' team title. The Grizzlies scored 25 points, thanks in part to a course-record run (10:54.93) by Amy-Eloise Neale in the girls' senior race, while Sehome scored 26. Bellingham was third with 58 points.
Sehome claimed the boys' title with 48 points, beating out Kamiak (62) and Squalicum 65, and the Mariners claimed the combined title with 74 points, topping Bellingham (126) and Glacier Peak (129).
Arlington's Emma Janousek won the freshman girls' race in 12:46.92, while Burlington-Edison's RaynJoy Norton won the junior girls' event in 12:36.14.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
GIRLS' CROSS COUNTRY
At Civic Stadium
Team leaders: 1. Glacier Peak 25, Sehome 26, 3. Bellingham 58.
Freshmen: 1. Emma Janousek (Arlington) 12:46.92 ; 2. Rebekah Oviatt (Sehome) 12:51.64 , 3. Zanna Sullivan (Sehome) 12:56.55; 4. Mimi Meggison (Meridian) 12:57.75 ; 5. Dana Ringler (Sehome) 13:10.68 . Other top local finishers: 9 . Jillian Anderson (Ferndale) 13:48.42 ; 13 . Sarah Ball 1 (Lynden Christian) 4:22.47; 18. Amy Murphy (Nooksack Valley) 15:01.28 ; 20. Makayla Stahl (Bellingham) 15:09.23; 35. Hannah Kean (Blaine) 16:15.49.
Sophomores: 1. Emily Pittis (Sehome) 12:10.69 ; 2. Olivia Capron (Burlington-Edison) 12:56.74; 3. Katherine Dittmann (Glacier Peak) 13:08.28 ; 4 . Leah Veldhuisen (Bellingham) 13:17.91 ; 5. Cassidy Rude (Arlington) 13:18.57. Other top local finishers: 12. Claire Scott (Squalicum) 14:01.20; 15. McKenzie Young (Lynden Christian) 14:06.63; 34 . Hillary Kiele (Blaine) 14:47.08; 37. Katie Buss (Mount Baker) 15:10.37; 53 . Kara Collins (Ferndale) 15:58.78; 64 . Elianna Ryan (Meridian) 16:29.60.
Juniors: 1. RaynJoy Norton (Burlington-Edison) 12:36.14 ; 2. Sarah Huffman (Sehome) 12:41.62 ; 3. Annie Roberts (Kingston) 12:43.04 ; 4. Megan Davis (Glacier Peak) 12:49.70 ; 5 . Abby Cybula (Sehome) 12:56.67 . Other top local finishers: 8. Marissa Hielkema (Lynden Christian) 13:09.36; 9 . McKenzie Roque (Meridian) 13:12.25; 10 . Nicole Burbank (Bellingham) 13:15.71; 25. Kelsie Nern (Mount Baker) 14:01.28; 29. Alex Parson (Nooksack Valley) 14:14.65; 43. Rachel Phipps (Squalicum) 15:24.73; 49. Elise Freeman (Ferndale) 15:34.97.
Seniors: 1. Amy-Eloise Neale (Glacier Peak) 10:54.93 ; 2 . Katie Bianchini (Glacier Peak) 11:31.27 ; 3. Brittany Gappa (Squalicum) 11:48.70 ; 4. Sally Larson (Cedar Park Christian) 11:52.45; 5 . Haley Suarez (Meadowdale) 12:09.71 . Other top local finishers: 7 . Bekah Jensen (Bellingham) 12:41.20; 9 . Rachael Hatcher (Mount Baker) 12:52.17; 10 . Makalee Latta (Ferndale) 13:04.08; 13 . Lindsay Hodgson (Sehome) 13:13.47; 19. Jayna Edmonds (Meridian) 13:30.16; 55 . Emily Visser (Lynden Christian) 15:32.47; 59. Natalie Vandeist (Nooksack Valley) 15:50.66.
BOYS' CROSS COUNTRY
At Civic Stadium
Team leaders: 1. Sehome 48, 2. Kamiak 62, 3. Squalicum 65.
Freshmen: 1. Sam Gillman (Bellingham) 11:30.23 ; 2 . Tanner Avila (Lakewood) 11:43.51 ; 3. Colton Johnsen (Sehome) 11:44.46 ; 4 . Logan Clark (Oak Harbor) 11:48.49; 5. Josh Bevan (Marysville-Pilchuck) 11:54.68 . Other top local finishers: 19. Josh Lingbloom (Lynden Christian) 12:29.45; 26 . Denny McAuliffe (Squalicum) 12:37.91; 30. Noah Swanson (Meridian) 12:51.48; 35 . Parker Morris (Blaine) 12:56.06; 38. Zach Harvey (Nooksack Valley) 13:04.53; 42 . Matthew Steiber (Ferndale) 13:13.03; 53. Kody Kelley (Mount Baker) 13:30.52.
Sophomores: 1. Kirby Overman (Sehome) 10:34.55 ; 2 . John Rodeheffer (Oak Harbor) 10:42.08; 3. Cole Zink (South Whidbey) 10:51.70; 4. Omar Abdulla (Shorewood) 10:52.04 ; 5 . Collin Magnusson (Meridian) 10:57.71. Other top local finishers: 10. Dillon Rinauro (Squalicum) 11:16.32; 18 . Jon Wiley (Lynden Christian) 11:34.51; 37. Sean Ryder (Bellingham) 12:06.24; 64. Derek Johnson (Nooksack Valley) 12:54.59; 85. Alex Dodge (Blaine) 13:48.88; 89 . Phillip Haggith (Mount Baker) 14:05.36.
Juniors: 1 . Chris Fredlund (Squalicum) 10:28.03 ; 2. Jerry Behrens (Kamiak) 10:33.49; 3. Simon Maguire (Bellingham) 10:37.17 ; 4. Alex Mitchell 1 (Mount Vernon) 0:42.12 ; 5. Isaac Wadhwani (Terry Fox) 10:43.03 . Other top local finishers: 17 . Davis Phillips (Meridian) 11:12.04; 18 . Trevor Northrop (Sehome) 11:13.99; 24. Shelby Miles (Mount Baker) 11:20.35; 42. David Shapiro (Blaine) 11:51.93; 43. Eduardo Tapia (Ferndale) 11:52.25; 54. Dylan Blok (Lynden Christian) 12:16.74.
Seniors: 1. Patrick Gibson (Squalicum) 9:55.36 ; 2 . Poli Baltazar (Aberdeen) 9:57.67 ; 3. Nathan Wadhwani (Terry Fox) 10:01.94 ; 4 Tom Bradley (Blaine) 10:02.18 ; 5 . Dillon Quintana (Mount Baker) 10:05.50 . Other top local finishers: 6. Joe Charbonneau (Bellingham) 10:12.48; 7 . Connor Jungkuntz (Ferndale) 10:13.23; 8 . Reed Henderson (Sehome) 10:16.61; 17 . Kelby Todd (Meridian) 10:44.45; 22 . Tyler Reardon (Lynden Christian) 11:00.73; 43. Stephen Dietz (Nooksack Valley) 11:34.46; 48 . Enrique Medina (Lummi) 12:35.01.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.