Team-oriented Pittis runs to unprecedented success for Sehome

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 6, 2013 

26 TRK STATE

Sehome's Emily Pittis crosses the finish line to win the girls' 3200 meter race on the final day of the 2A state track and field championships at Mt. Tahoma High on Friday, May 25, 2013 in Tacoma.

ANDY BRONSON — THE BELLINGHAM HERALD Buy Photo

Genevie Pfueller didn't do it, and neither did Bronwyn Crossman or Becca Friday. Talented distance runners like Cressy Stewart, Bobeya Krishnek, Kristen Rhode, Andrea Brown, Sophie Curl and Annie Moore couldn't get it done, either.

In fact, no girl in Whatcom County's storied distance running history had been able to accomplish the feat - at least not until this past school year.

As only a sophomore, Sehome's Emily Pittis pulled off the rare Distance Running Triple Crown, which includes winning individual state titles in cross country and in track's 1,600 and 3,200 meters. Pittis joins Mount Baker boys' runner Chris Villani (1975-76) as the only runner in county history to accomplish the triple.

How rare is the feat?

Pittis is only the 16th girl in all classifications in state history to do it.

For that reason, Pittis has been selected The Bellingham Herald's All-Whatcom County Girls' Athlete of the Year.

"Although the layman may look at them all as distance events, it takes great versatility to be able to win all three," Sehome cross country and track coach Kevin Ryan wrote in an email. "The track events require more speed - the 1,600 much more than the 3,200. Cross country requires a greater aerobic capacity, and the ability to run varying terrain - uphills, downhills, corners.

"In track, many runners will focus on just one event, meaning the distance runners doubling back after the 1,600 or 3,200 earlier in the state meet will have to face several fresh runners who are focused and primed just for that one event."

As unique as Pittis' Distance Triple Crown was, it wasn't what made her season really special.

Not only did Pittis win the three individual titles, she helped her team win Class 2A team titles in cross country and track and field. No girls' runner in previous state history had pulled off the Triple Crown and helped their teams to state titles in the same school year.

"It is one thing to perform when there is not pressure, quite another thing to perform when the pressure is at its highest and your team is depending on you," Ryan wrote. "It is one thing to be a great runner without much of a team around you and the ability to focus only on yourself, another thing to be a great runner that in addition to doing the rigorous training to become a state champion, does all the additional little things to help lead and make the team better."

Pittis isn't someone to just pay teamwork lip service. In fact, she probably would have gladly traded in at least two of three individual titles - and quite possibly all three - in exchange for team titles.

The sophomore ended up showing the way for a talented group of freshmen that spurred the Mariners back to the top of the podium in cross country last fall.

But her team-first attitude was never more prevalent than during her state win in the 3,200 meters in May.

Already owning a hard-fought 1,600 victory two days earlier, Pittis woke up on race day to find a cold she had already been battling had gotten much worse overnight.

But rather than throttle things down and surrender to the virus, Pittis hit the gas for the race's final 600 meters - not because she wanted another individual accolade, but because her team needed the points to claim the state title.

"I saw my mom and she yelled, 'Run for your team,'" Pittis said. "That really reminded me why I was out here, and that inspired me to run harder."

Fortunately in cross country and track, the better an athlete does individually has a direct correlation to how the team does scoring points.

And in 2012-13, Pittis scored maximum points for her team.

She started the year off by being simply dominant at the 2A State Cross Country Championships, successfully defending the title she won as a freshman with her winning time of 18 minutes, 17.7 seconds. That time was the fifth fastest girls' time in all classifications run on the Sun Willows course in Pasco on championship weekend this year.

Despite her cold, her title-winning time of 10:52.46 in the 3,200 was the eighth fastest in the state in all classifications this year.

She won the 1,600 in 5:04.29 and turned in a personal-best time of 5:03.37 two weeks earlier, which was the 17th fastest in the state.

And remember she was only a sophomore.

She has two more years left to try to accomplish even more not only individually, but with her team.

"Thinking about the team aspect and being a captain and a leader, that's really exciting," Pittis said after the cross country season. "I really want to help this team keep winning."

Reach David Rasbach at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2286.

ALL-WHATCOM COUNTY GIRLS' ATHLETES OF THE YEAR

2012-13: Emily Pittis, Sehome

2011-12: Jasmine Hommes, Lynden Christian

2010-11: Jasmine Hommes, Lynden Christian

2009-10: Haley Locker, Ferndale

2008-09: Brandi Benner, Lynden

2007-08: Courtney VanBrocklin, Mount Baker

2006-07: Bronwyn Crossman, Squalicum

2005-06: Meghan Dahl, Ferndale

Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271.

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