The good news is the Class 2A Northwest District Cross Country meet is a whole lot closer to home. The bad news is getting through the meet and on to state hasn't gotten any easier.
Cross country teams from Bellingham, Lynden, Sehome and Squalicum will take on the other two Northwest Conference teams, the five 2A schools from the Cascade Conference and the two KingCo 2A schools on Saturday, Oct. 27, at Lakewood High School in Arlington. Ferndale also will head to Arlington to take on schools from the Wesco in the 3A Northwest District meet.
This will be the first time in a while that the 2A and 3A Whatcom County schools haven't headed to South Whidbey for their district meets. Instead they will run the course that was used earlier this month during the Hole in the Wall meet - an event all five Whatcom County schools participated in.
"It's a fair course and a good course," Sehome co-coach Kevin Ryan said. "There are a couple of good hills that will test you."
What will really be the test, though, is getting through to state.
Only the top three boys' teams and any other individual runners that place among the top 15 in the 2A race will earn trips on Nov. 3 to Pasco for the state championships.
With five teams ranked among the top 10 in 2A according to the latest Washington State Cross Country Coaches' Association poll - No. 1 Sehome, No. 2 Squalicum, No. 3 Bellingham, No. 4 Cedarcrest and No. 10 Lakewood - that means two will be left home, including one of the top four. Add in Anacortes, which would be fourth between Bellingham and Cedarcrest according to a hypothetical meet of everybody running their best times, according to athletic.net, and you get the picture.
The girls' side in 2A is only marginally better, with four teams and any other individuals in the top 20 earning trips to state. Again, the Northwest District has plenty of talent with No. 1 Sehome, No. 3 Bellingham, No. 5 Cedarcrest, No. 6 Burlington-Edison and No. 10 Lakewood.
"I think our local teams (Bellingham boys and girls, Sehome boys and girls and Squalicum boys) should be OK, but you can't afford to have an off day," Ryan said. "There are too many good teams that can capitalize."
Squalicum's Patrick Gibson, Sehome's Conner Johnsen and Reed Henderson and Bellingham's Joe Charbonneau should compete for the individual district title, while Sehome's Emily Pittis and Squalicum's Brittany Gappa, who is coming back from illness, are among the frontrunners for the girls' title.
The Ferndale boys' and girls' teams will be trying to place among the top three to earn a trip to state, and if they can't do that, runners such as Connor and Logan Jungkuntz on the boys' side and Makalee Latta and Jillian Anderson on the girls' need top-15 finishes to advance to state.
In the 1A ranks, Blaine and Mount Baker now get the pleasure of traveling to American Lake Golf Course in Tacoma, joining 1A Tri-District Meet veterans Lynden Christian, Meridian and Nooksack Valley.
The tri-district has five berths to state on the boys' side and six on the girls.
The boys' side of the tri-district sports the top three teams in the latest coaches' poll - Charles Wright, King's and Lynden Christian - along with No. 9 Blaine. Meridian also has to be a threat to advance, and Mount Baker's Dillon Quintana is among the favorites to win the individual title, along with Blaine's Tom Bradley.
On the girls' side, No. 3 King's, No. 5 Meridian, No. 6 South Whidbey, No. 7 Northwest, No. 8 Lynden Christian and No. 11 Mount Baker will be among the favorites to advance.
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
DISTRICT CROSS COUNTRY
CLASS 1A TRI-DISTRICT
Time: Boys 1:40 p.m.; Girls 2:40
Site: American Lake Golf Course, Tacoma
State berths: Boys - Top five teams (plus all other individuals in top 25); Girls - Top six teams (plus all other individuals in top 30)
CLASS 2A NORTHWEST DISTRICT
Time: Girls 11 a.m.; Boys 1 p.m.
Site: Lakewood High School, Arlington
State berths: Girls - Top four teams (plus all other individuals in top 20); Boys - Top three teams (plus all other individuals in top 15)
CLASS 3A NORTHWEST DISTRICT
Time: Girls 11:40 a.m.; Boys 1:40 p.m.
Site: Lakewood High School, Arlington
State berths: Girls - Top three teams (plus all other individuals in top 15); Boys - Top three teams (plus all other individuals in top 15)
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.