BELLINGHAM - Squalicum senior runner Patrick Gibson, face flushed and singlet damp from the 2.96 mile course, strode effortlessly toward the finish line Saturday, Sept. 22, to win the boys' race at the 38th Annual Mount Baker Cross Country Invitational at Silver Lake Park.
And as Gibson neared the finish line, imminent victory ahead, reflection overcame the senior as he realized this would be his last run on a course he had come to love.
"I've been running here since I was in the 8th grade," Gibson said after his victory. "I was telling the guys before the race how special this place is to me because. Really, this is where I fell in love with Squalicum cross country and this is my last time running it as a Squalicum athlete. It's one of my favorite courses; I love running against all of the guys in the area; I love running with my teammates and it's nice to win, but that's just an add-on."
Gibson also won this race last year and was able to best his time by 3.47 seconds, finishing this year's race with a time of 15 minutes, 09.90 seconds. Following Gibson was Terry Fox High School's (B.C.) Nathan Wadhwani, who pulled in with a time of 15:15.84.
Wadhwani made Gibson work to win the race, pulling ahead of ahead of him by jumping over a rock mound heading into a dry riverbed, which Gibson nimbly avoided.
As for the girls' race, Squalicum's Brittany Gappa eased her way to a comfortable victory with a time of 18:19.59, beating Meridian freshman Mimi Meggison by 35.49 seconds.
Gappa maintained a strong, fluid pace that found her pulling away from the field after the one-mile mark.
"There was a girl who went out pretty fast, but I stayed behind her for the first mile, which worked out well because I was on pace," Gappa said, "but after that, I was by myself."
Beyond the one mile mark, Gappa had to force herself to maintain a focus on what was ahead of her, and not behind, she said.
"I never look back in a race," Gappa said, "because that is the opposite of what you want to do - you want to go forward. If you look back, you'll start going backwards."
That attitude, is what Squalicum coach Katrina Henry loves about her senior leader.
"Brittany is really tough," Henry said. "She just hammers, really. She came in today and did her best."