Nearly two years later, Sehome senior Reed Henderson still has vivid memories of the Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships his sophomore season.
Even though he turned in what was then a personal best time of 16 minutes, 9.29 seconds on the 5,000-meter course and finished seventh in the race, that's not so much what he remembers. Instead, he focuses on not finishing sixth in the race.
"I remember Bellingham's Xion Knickrehm passing me in the last 100 meters, and I was really frustrated, because he was my main competition in the 800 (meters in track and field) during my freshman and sophomore years," Henderson said in a phone interview. "He was the guy to beat for me, and I thought I had him beat, but he came back to get me."
That doesn't happen all that often to Henderson.
In fact, he's the guy that usually out kicks guys at the finish to pass them, something he hopes to do to a couple unsuspecting runners at this year's NWC Championships on Wednesday, Oct. 17, on the Civic Stadium course.
"I'm more of a kick guy," Henderson said. "If somebody is in range in that last 400 meters, I feel they're pretty much mine, and I can run them down. ... It makes you feel pretty good to get guys like that. It makes you feel like you finished the race trying."
While finishing on the other end of that can be demoralizing and leave lasting memories, as Henderson can attest to from Knickrehm getting him two years ago.
Fortunately, his track background, which includes a second-place finish in the 800 last spring at the Class 2A State Championships, keeps that from happening very often to Henderson.
"He's got a tremendous sprint at the end of races," Sehome co-cross country coach Mark Kerr said. "When he taps into that, he can gain ground on just about anybody in the state. Nobody can finish a race like he can. He just needs to trust in that ability. ... He has got a fantastic kick."
If anybody can speak to his kick, it's fellow Mariner senior Conner Johnsen, who's been running with Henderson since they were in middle school.
"When we started out our freshman year, everyone knew he (Johnsen) was a good distance runner," Henderson said. "I don't think that many people recognized me as one at first. But then in our first time trial, I beat Conner. Since then, we've had a friendly competition between each other. We keep pushing each other to do better. We've pushed each other pretty hard this year, and I think you've seen us both improve because of it."
In fact, the two always seem to be pretty close together on the race course.
Johnsen owns the team's top 5-kilometer time so far this year with a season-best mark of 15:47.0 at the Sept. 29 Nike Pre-Nationals. Henderson finished only four places behind with a personal-best time of 15:56.5.
Last year at the state championships, Johnsen placed fifth, while Henderson was only 16 seconds back in 11th.
"Those two guys have pulled each other along," Mariners co-coach Kevin Ryan said. "They have faith in each other and they have each other's backs. If one of them is having an off day, the other one is right there to help the other one along."
Each also has shown a strong work ethic this summer and fall, which should again make them contenders for a top finish not only on Wednesday, but also when the state meet rolls around early next month.
"I think Reed just needs to have confidence in his training," Kerr said. "He works out as good as anyone we've every had, and that includes Jake Riley (who went on to run at Stanford)."
Henderson hopes that work will pay off for him on Wednesday, when he and Johnsen will do battle once again with one of the strongest groups of senior runners Whatcom County has produced.
It will be the last time Sehome's seniors will go head-to-head with runners such as Mount Baker's Dillon Quintana, Blaine's Tom Bradley and Eddie Fontes and Ferndale's Connor and Logan Jungkuntz, who will be racing in other classifications during the postseason.
Henderson and Johnsen still will get to face Squalicum's defending 2A state champion Patrick Gibson and Bellingham's Joe Charbonneau during the 2A postseason, though.
"I'm pretty excited to go up against those guys one more time," Henderson said. "We've been running hard, trying to beat each other for the last four years. It's going to be pretty intense on Wednesday, because we all want it so bad."
And that could mean trouble for anybody that Henderson is within striking distance of at the finish.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
NWC CROSS COUNTRY CHAMPIONSHIPS
When: Wednesday, Oct. 17
Site: Civic Stadium course
3:20 p.m.: Boys' junior varsity race
3:50 p.m.: Girls' junior varsity race
4:30 p.m.: Boys' varsity race
5 p.m.: Girls' varsity race
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.