BELLINGHAM - Though she finished second last year as a freshman at the Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships, Sehome's Emily Pittis said winning the title as a sophomore wasn't her top goal entering Wednesday, Oct. 17, at Civic Stadium.
"I was just looking forward to running against Brittany (Gappa of Squalicum) again and competing with her again," Pittis said.
Those plans unfortunately had to be scratched, as Gappa was held out of the race because of illness, though Storm coach Katrina Henry said she expects the senior back for next week's Class 2A Northwest District meet at Lakewood High School.
"When I found out Brittany wasn't here, my coaches told me to wait for it to feel right to make a break and then go for it," Pittis said. "I wanted to run as hard as I could for my team and get as strong a finish as I could for my team."
Pittis certainly did her part for Sehome, as she won the individual title by nearly 15 seconds with a time of 18 minutes, 25.81 seconds, spurring the Mariners to the team trophy. Sehome scored only 22 points, as its top five runners all placed in the top seven - Rebekah Oviatt in third (18:45.49), Zanna Sullivan in fifth (19:11.15), Sarah Huffman in sixth (19:22.93) and Kate Hannah in seventh (19:26.05).
In fact, Sehome had 10 runners finish among the top 25 overall, including Dana Ringler in 10th.
"I'm really proud of everyone," Pittis said. "We were so strong as a team. For some of our seniors, this was their last race, so I'm really happy for them to be able to go out like this, and we had four freshmen in our top 14. That's insane."
What's really insane is that Bellingham, which had its own impressive showing with four runners in the top 15 - Bekah Jensen (ninth), Leah Veldhuisen (12th), Nicole Burbank (13th) and Maya Norton (15th) - was a distant second with 68 points. Third-place Burlington-Edison scored 99.
Meridian freshman Mimi Meggison (second), Burlington's RaynJoy Norton (fourth), Lynden Christian's Marissa Hielkema (eighth) and Jensen were the only non-Sehome runners to crack the top 10.
Pittis said she expected to battle RaynJoy Norton early, and she did through most of the first half of the race.
"When it felt right, I made my break," Pittis said.
Unlike most of the rest of the field, Meggison was able to keep Pittis within shouting distance.
"I just wanted to try and stay behind Emily as long as I could," she said. "I knew she was going to make a break, and when she did, I wanted to stay as close as I could. I ended up PRing (18:40.29), so that's great. I didn't let my nerves get to me too much."
The freshman certainly caught the attention of the defending 2A state champion.
"I didn't know her all that well coming in," Pittis said of Meggison, "but I got a little nervous when I heard her right behind me. I know she's a great runner, and it's great to see her have a good race."
Meggison's finish, along with an 18th-place showing from Jayna Edmonds helped Meridian place fourth in the team standings.
Hielkema boosted Lynden Christian to fifth, while Ferndale used a 24th-place finish from Makalee Latta and Jillian Anderson's 27th-place finish to place sixth.
Kelsie Nern finished 11th and Rachael Hatcher 19th to help Mount Baker finish seventh, while Nooksack Valley finished eighth and was led by Amy Murphy in 35th.
Without Gappa, Squalicum placed ninth and was led by Kristin Smith in 47th.
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
NORTHWEST CONFERENCE CHAMPIONSHIPS
At Civic Stadium
Team scores: 1. Sehome 22, 2. Bellingham 68, 3. Burlington-Edison 99, 4. Meridian 108, 5. Lynden Christian 137, 6. Ferndale 177, 7. Mount Baker 188, 8. Nooksack Valley 208, 9. Squalicum 239, 10. Sedro-Woolley 251, 11. Anacortes 278.
Top individuals: 1. Emily Pittis (Sehome) 18.25.81; 2. Mimi Meggison (Meridian) 18:40.29; 3. Rebekah Oviatt (Sehome) 18:45.49; 4. RaynJoy Norton (Burlington-Edison) 19:04.99; 5. Zanna Sullivan (Sehome) 19:11.15; 6. Sarah Huffman (Sehome) 19:22.93; 7. Kate Hannah (Sehome) 19:26.05; 8. Marissa Hielkema (Lynden Christian) 19:28.94; 9. Bekah Jensen (Bellingham) 19:29.59; 10. Dana Ringler (Sehome) 19:29.87.
Sehome: 1. Emily Pittis 18.25.81, 3. Rebekah Oviatt 18:45.49, 5. Zanna Sullivan 19:11.15, 6. Sarah Huffman 19:22.93, 7. Kate Hannah 19:26.05, 10. Dana Ringler 19:29.87, 14. Jessa Clark 19:39.37.
Bellingham: 9. Bekah Jensen 19:29.59, 12. Leah Veldhuisen 19:38.48, 13.Nicole Burbank 19:38.90, 15. Maya Norton 19:41.92, 20. Katie Walker 20:01.01, 21. Abby Walker 20:05.82, 28. Clara Prentiss 20:20.20.
Meridian: 2. Mimi Meggison 18:40.29, 18. Jayna Edmonds 19:55.83, 23. Sydney Gray 20:15.24, 31. McKenzie Roque 20:36.77, 50. Arissa Alvarez 21:38.71, 60. Tiana Pratt 22:16.76.
Lynden Christian: 8. Marissa Hielkema 19:28.94, 33. McKenzie Young 20:40.83, 38. Sarah Ball 20:52.28, 41. Julia Morris 20:58.23, 45. Brianna Rutgers, 21:15.20, 58. Ally Visser 22:06.81, 70. Emily Visser 23:32.82.
Ferndale: 24. Makalee Latta 20:18.37, 27. Jillian Anderson 20:19.47, 43. Mikaela Hernandez 21:03.72, 51. Jana Peterson 21:46.32, 63. Taryn Knutsen, 22:22.91, 65. Elise Freeman 22:41.30, 78. Nancy Devenere 24:22.83 .
Mount Baker: 11. Kelsie Nern 19:38.22, 19. Rachael Hatcher 19:56.27, 55. Katherine Dunford 21:57.25, 64. Rayedeen Engels 22:23.19, 68. Katie Buss 23:16.57, 71. Ruth Pilat 23:33.09.
Nooksack Valley: 35. Amy Murphy 20:44.28, 48. Jessica Jose 21:21.45, 49. Alex Parson 21:37.37, 56. Natalie Vandeist 21:58.66, 62. Kelly Jackson 22:18.73, 79. Kendra Hem 24:23.08, 83. Jasmine Duque 25:05.17.
Squalicum: 47. Kristin Smith 21:19.23, 53. Tara Knight 21:50.45, 57. Claire Scott 21:59.09, 61. Justine Johnson 22:17.10, 67. Rachel Phipps 23:02.77.
Blaine: 66. Hannah Kean 22:57.42, 77. Hillary Kiele 24:22.57.
Lynden: 72. Katherine Smith 23:35.15, 80. Kendra Hack 24:33.00, 84. Cynthia Anker 25:09.38, 85. Anna Roebuck 25:15.10.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.