After being the smallest school in Class 2A, in terms of enrollment, for the past two years and one of the smallest for the past six, just about everybody in the city of Blaine - or at least the Blaine High School athletic department - welcomed a move down to Class 1A during the latest reclassification cycle this year.
Everybody, that is, except runner Tom Bradley.
"It's kind of a bummer to lose the competition with the guys we've been running with the past four years," Bradley said in a phone interview. "We won't get a chance to race against those 2A guys that we've built rivalries with over the years. I wanted a little redemption for those guys beating me last year."
By "those guys" Bradley was specifically talking about Sehome seniors Conner Johnsen and Reed Henderson and defending 2A state champion Patrick Gibson.
"Tom loves racing the best," Blaine cross country coach Carey Bacon said. "It's what drives him. He feels he races his best when he's racing the best."
But don't worry too much about Bradley getting lonely in the 1A ranks.
He's still got old rival Dillon Quintana from Mount Baker hot on his heels, and the two of them turned in a another classic battle on Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Class 1A Tri-District Meet in Tacoma - a race Bradley won by just 5 seconds.
"It's great having Dillon down here," Bradley said. "He's great competition. He'll keep me from slacking off."
Not that Bradley is the type to slack off - in fact, he's exactly the opposite.
"Tom is getting everything he deserves," Bacon said. "He's earned it all. He's done an enormous amount of work. If you look over his entire high school career, he's invested a lot of time and sweat equity. It's exciting to see it coming around for him."
In addition to winning last week's tri-district title in 16 minutes, 2.1 seconds, Bradley won the Northwest Conference Championship crown in 15:21.93 - a time that still stands as the best at 5 kilometers in the state.
Not only that, Bradley got the pleasure of beating out Gibson in their final high school cross country race together, along with all the other seniors he's grown up racing against.
"That was really neat," Bradley said. "I love running against Patrick and those guys. I think it was good to show how good the 1As are going to be this year, and it's always good to get the last one. Patrick is an amazing competitor, and I think he had the course record, and I broke that, too. To end my high school conference career with a win and a new record, it made me extremely happy."
Perhaps not quite as happy as he was to help Blaine qualify its first team for state last week.
Besides running the top time in the tri-district, Bradley had a huge hand in recruiting enough talented runners - many from Blaine's soccer team - to help the Borderites get through to state with a fifth-place finish.
"This year, we've put so much emphasis on the team," Bradley said. "Dropping down to 1A, we knew we would have a chance. 2A is just so competitive in this district, especially with only three teams going through. I think they had six teams ranked in the top 10 in the state. That's just crazy. This last year, I've been recruiting a lot of my friends, too. For my senior project, I held summer practices and helped coach those guys through the summer and get them some mileage."
While Bradley was focusing on increasing the mileage of his teammates to get them ready, the senior that has long been known for running miles and miles each week during the summer, found different ways to prepare for the season - mainly improving his strength in the weight room.
"This year, I've been lifting weights for the first time," Bradley said. "We're starting to do a lot more drills and lifting stuff. It's something I hadn't done before, and it's made a giant difference. Before this year, I was just increasing my mileage, which increases my chances of injury."
Combine Bradley's improved strength with his hard work and determination and add in his race smarts, and it's no wonder Bradley has to be considered one of the favorites to claim the 1A individual title this year.
"His sense of race pace is really, really good," Bacon said. "He knows how fast he is going. His internal clock, in terms of time, is really good. Now that he's stronger, he's not afraid to get out front and push the pace. ... All year long, Tom has been near the front, if he's not leading. That takes mental toughness to do, because you don't want to push it too hard too early. But Tom knows exactly what he's doing."
Bradley is looking forward to making up for what he described as a "difficult" 2A state meet last year, when he finished 47th with a time of 16:51.
If he can, he would like to show that he is capable of doing the same thing Gibson did last year and bring home an individual state title.
"I was looking at that recently," Bradley said. "It's pretty exciting. All of us have a great shot at doing something big. Me individually, Patrick individually and with his team. Those Sehome guys seem to be in great shape for a team title. It could be a really big day for Whatcom County."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
STATE CROSS COUNTRY
When: Saturday, Nov. 3
Site: Sun Willows Golf Course, Pasco
Class 1A girls: 10:30 a.m.
Class 2A girls: 11 a.m.
Class 1A boys: Noon
Class 2A boys: 1:30 p.m.
Class 3A boys: 2 p.m.
COUNTY 1A BOYS' STATE QUALIFIERS
Runner Yr. Qual. Time School
Tom Bradley Sr. 16:02.1 Blaine
Dillon Quintana Sr. 16:07.5 Mt. Baker
Cody Velthuizen Sr. 16:46.6 Lynden Christian
Kelby Todd Sr. 16:48.9 Meridian
Collin Magnusson So. 17:04.5 Meridian
Eddie Fontes Sr. 17:09.5 Blaine
David Anderson Jr. 17:15.7 Meridian
Shelby Miles Jr. 17:16.1 Mt. Baker
Weston Whitener Sr. 17:17.0 Lynden Christian
Hunter Weinert Sr. 17:33.6 Lynden Christian
Jon Wiley So. 17:36.7 Lynden Christian
Davis Phillips Jr. 17:47.6 Meridian
Tyler Reardon Sr. 17:58.2 Lynden Christian
Danny Thorpe Sr. 18:07.8 Blaine
Connor Blok Jr. 18:11.1 Lynden Christian
Rico Martinez Fr. 18:20.3 Meridian
David Shapiro Jr. 18:32.1 Blaine
Parker Morris Fr. 18:32.9 Blaine
Derek Morrow So. 18:35.3 Meridian
Dylan Blok Jr. 18:39.3 Lynden Christian
John Cochran Jr. 18:53.0 Blaine
Jay Crandall Sr. 18:57.9 Meridian
Christian Sharp Jr. 19:18.8 Blaine
NOTE: Lynden Christian, Meridian and Blaine qualified as teams. Lineups subject to change.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.