Sehome sophomore Emily Pittis admits she felt a little more pressure coming into the Class 2A State Girls' Cross Country Championships on Saturday, Nov. 3, at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
She was after all the defending state champion and came in with the fastest 2A time in the state.
"It was completely different this year," Pittis said in a phone interview. "Going into it, I had a completely different mindset. Last year, I wasn't expected to win. I just wanted to go out and do my best. This year, I didn't want to peg myself that I had to get first, and I still wanted to do my best, but there was definitely more pressure on me."
It didn't seem to bother her, though, as she beat Cheney's Sanne Holland by 161/2 seconds to claim her second straight state title with a time of 18 minutes, 17.7 seconds. Squalicum's Brittany Gappa, who has battled illness the past couple of weeks, picked up her fourth top-10 finish at state, placing fifth for a third straight year in 18:51.4, behind third-place Brittany Aquino of Spokane East Valley and North Kitsap's Reagan Colyer in fourth.
Pittis' time was almost an exact duplicate of her winning time in 2011 (18:17).
Pittis becomes only the second Whatcom Country runner to win back-to-back titles, joining Squalicum's Bronwyn Crossman, who accomplished the feat in 2006-07. But unlike Crossman, who won her titles when she was a junior and senior, Pittis has an opportunity to go for three straight next year.
"It's kind of surreal right now," Pittis said. "I don't know if it's hit me that I won back-to-back. Last year, I don't think I even thought about the state meet coming in. I was just like, 'Yay, I'm running cross country! It's going to be super fun!' I thought maybe I'd contend for a senior title, or maybe even as a junior, but I never even dreamed I would do it before then."
Not only has she done it twice before her junior season, she's found the perfect recipe on how to do it, as she followed a similar race strategy to what carried her to victory as a freshman.
Like a year before, Pittis was near the front throughout, but it was at about the two-mile mark when she made her break away from a pack that included Gappa and Burlington-Edison's RaynJoy Norton and got around Aquino to assume the lead.
"I knew my coach, Kevin (Ryan), was there at the two-mile mark, and he was yelling at me," Pittis said. "I did what I did last year and made my break there. I was like, 'I know I can do this.'"
And she did.
Then she turned her attention to cheering on her teammates as they crossed the finish line and cheering them on to a sixth team title in seven years.
"I was just so focused on helping my team win, I really wasn't worried about where I finished," Pittis said. "I'm so big on team, and it was so neat to be a part of this with them."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
WHATCOM COUNTY GIRLS' INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS
Runner School Year Class
Lou Allison Sehome 1973 2A
Genevie Pfueller Sehome 1983 2A
Katie Park Mount Baker 1996 1A
Bobeya Krishnek Mount Baker 2001 2A
Bronwyn Crossman Squalicum 2006 3A
Bronwyn Crossman Squalicum 2007 3A
Emily Pittis Sehome 2011 2A
Emily Pittis Sehome 2012 2A
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.