It's no wonder Sehome swept the Class 2A state titles in both cross country and track and field this season.
The Mariners will send no fewer than 10 graduated seniors from the Class of 2013 on to compete for their respective colleges in cross country next fall. Most of them also ran track for Sehome last spring, where they were joined by three other athletes that plan to compete in college.
"I think we had a lot of kids that were committed to this sport, whether it was cross country or in the sprints and jumps," coach Kevin Ryan said. "They enjoyed it. They loved the sport, and they wanted to continue. ... Their approach was great, and they continued to develop for four years."
While much of the credit obviously has to go to the individual athletes and their love of their sports, that love was fostered by the right environment.
"I think it comes down to the depth of the team," said Liam Toney, who will head to Pomona (Calif.) College. "There were so many people - 150 people for cross country - pushing you and driving you to excel, and that leads to a collegiate mindset in high school."
The Mariners also were able to foster a supportive, family atmosphere in both programs that probably helped feed the love for the sport that Ryan saw.
"I think that our track and cross country program at Sehome does a good job of letting kids love the sport, and that makes you want to make it a lifelong sport - not just four years at high school," said Kate Hannah, who will run at Swarthmore (Pa.) College. "You felt like you were a part of something there."
Conner Johnsen (Washington State) and Reed Henderson (Northern Arizona) headlined the list of Mariners heading on to college as the two runners moving on NCAA Division I programs, but here is a look at the college choices some other Sehome cross country and track and field athletes made:
KEANE GETS INTO PERFECT PROGRAM
Though she was the last of Sehome's talented runners to actually sign, there was little doubt about where Brianna Keane wanted to go, and last week, she finally got her chance to ink her National Letter of Intent with Concordia University.
"I've just been waiting to get into their nursing program," Keane said in a phone interview. "I got into it, so now I know it's the place for me."
Keane also was weighing opportunities to go to Washington State, Portland, Western Oregon and a few other Canadian schools, but Concordia's reputation as an outstanding nursing school drew her to the Portland, Ore., school.
Having a family member there didn't hurt, either, as Keane's older brother, Sean, recently transferred from Kentucky to Concordia for his junior year, she said.
"It will be good having him there," Keane said. "It will be my first year at college, so having a family member there for support will be great. ... Both of us kind of thought it was the school for us. The main thing for me, though, was getting into nursing. When he signed to go there, I knew it was where I would go as long as I got into the nursing program."
Keane plans to run both cross country and track for the Cavaliers, who compete in the NAIA's Cascade Conference.
Concordia women's team finished fourth at the NAIA National Track and Field Championships last spring, while the cross country team was 11th nationally last fall.
"They have a strong middle distance program that is really athlete based," Keane said. "They know how to work together as a group so that everybody can do their best individually."
Keane definitely should add to that program. She is coming off winning the Class 2A state championship in the 800 meters, and had a personal-best time of 2 minutes, 14.62 seconds in the event. Keane also ran cross country for the Mariners as a senior, turning a personal-best time of 20:53.01 to finish second in the junior varsity race at the Northwest Conference Championships.
"I'm really glad to finally know where I'm going and have my future set for now," Keane said.
SULLIVAN'S IMPROVEMENT PAYS OFF
Madison Sullivan was never one to worry so much about where she placed as a distance runner for the cross country and track teams.
"When I started off, I wasn't a real fast runner," Sullivan said in a phone interview. "Now I've gotten pretty good. I've always said it doesn't matter how I place, but if I keep improving and achieving personal records, then that's enough for me."
Sullivan definitely did that throughout her four years running for the Mariners - enough so that she's earned the right to continue running competitively next year as a freshman at Lewis & Clark College.
"It's exciting to know I get to keep running, especially considering I get to keep running for a team," Sullivan said. "I've gotten to know a number of runners on the team, and they're all very friendly. I feel like I'm lucky I get to run with them next year."
One of her new teammates will be a familiar face, with fellow Sehome graduated senior Natalie Anderson also committing to Lewis & Clark.
Sullivan said she made the choice to join the Pioneers, who compete in the NCAA Division III's Northwest Conference, over the University of Portland.
"I could have run for either school, but I really liked the classes Lewis & Clark offered," Sullivan said. "I also liked the Lewis & Clark coach a bit more. He seems really inviting and definitely wanted me on the team. I thought he could help me continue to improve after high school."
Sullivan certainly showed improvement during her time in green and gold.
Over her four years, she dropped more than 27 seconds off her time in the 1,600 meters and placed fourth at the Northwest Conference Championships in the event with a personal-best time of 5:27.60.
In addition to the strong cross country and track teams, Sullivan said she was drawn to the strong engineering and art program at Lewis & Clark. She plans to take advantage and major in both.
"It's great that they're good in all three of my major interests - running, sciences and art," Sullivan said. "I'm really into engineering. I like the idea of getting into bio-medical engineering and possibly creating prosthetic limbs for people. I like engineering where you can create stuff, like bridges or illustrating where you can apply art."
CRABO READY TO FIGURE THINGS OUT AT SCRIPPS
Emma Crabo knows she'll be attending Scripps College, and she knows she'll be competing for the NCAA Division III Claremont-Mudd-Scripps cross country team in the fall.
Beyond that - she'll just figure it out as she goes.
"Since cross country is in the fall, that's all I've discussed with Coach (John) Goldhammer," Crabo said in a phone interview. "We both know I'll be running track, but we'll talk about that after the cross country season."
What she'll be running come track season also is "a very good question," Crabo said.
"In high school, my favorite event was the mile, but I also loved the 800," she said. "In college, the 800 and the mile become a much faster pace - they're not considered distance events anymore. The 10,000 meters is an option, but I think it will be a matter of trying different things and finding out what fits me."
Crabo said she plans to utilize that same approach outside the athletic department, as she hopes to find a major in the math or science realm once she arrives in Claremont, Calif., this fall.
"I'm OK with that," Crabo said. "I've definitely considered plans for after college. I've thought about going to the University of Washington to go into Pre-Med, perhaps. Because I have other general ideas what I want to do in the future, I'm OK having a little uncertainty now. I'm feeling confident I will find something I like along the way."
One thing she knows she likes is the running program she'll be entering.
She chose Scripps over Lewis & Clark College, Santa Clara, Macalester College in Minnesota, and a couple of other schools in the Claremont consortium of colleges.
"I went and visited my brother at Pomona," Crabo said. "I got to spend quite a bit of time there and experience the atmosphere and the people and what it would be like to actually go to there. I liked what it had to offer, and I can't say the campus was a downfall, either. They have a lot of great programs, and the running program is a huge plus. That was something I wanted to do in college."
Crabo certainly should be a solid addition for the Athenas, who placed third at the Division III National Cross Country Championships last year.
Crabo had a season-best time of 5 minutes, 42.30 seconds in the 1,600 meters this spring and had a personal-best time of 20:38.51 as a junior at the Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships.
TONEY FINDS BALANCE AT POMONA
As one of Sehome's valedictorians in the Class of 2013, Liam Toney knew that he was going to college for much more than just an opportunity to continue running.
That's why he decided to attend Pomona College and run cross country and track for Pomona-Pitzer. He made the decision after looking at Whitman College, Stanford and Carleton College.
"The huge benefit is it was a Division III team," Toney said in a phone interview. "That means it won't take up my entire life. They're also pretty talented, so I'll still get an athletic experience. But it won't take over my life, and I'll still get an awesome academic experience."
Toney said he was intrigued by the opportunity to run for one of the traditional Division III powers. Last year the Sagehens finished second at the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference Cross Country Championships and seventh at the SCIAC Track and Field Championships.
"(Former Sehome sprinter) Matt Sloane is a junior there, and he told me all about the track program," Toney said. "I also talked to an older sibling of a friend who was on the cross country team to shed some light on that. They told me it was a really close-knit group of guys. They really stick together and are more like a family. I like to hear that, because we had the same elements on the Sehome cross country team. We had a good family atmosphere."
Toney played a big part in that family winning the cross country state title last fall, as he placed 28th at the Class 2A State Championships and had a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 8.98 seconds at the Northwest Conference Championships. Last spring he had a personal-best time of 4:38.52 in the 1,600 meters.
"I feel if I have a great freshman season, I might be able to run in the top seven by the end of the year," Toney said. "But they're bringing in a huge freshman class with a lot of talent, so I have no idea how that will all work out. I'm hoping to be top seven by my sophomore year."
Toney said he is undecided on a major, but is considering something in math or science.
OTTERHOLT JUMPS AT CHANCE TO SING, COMPETE
When Ryan Otterholt sat down to start making his college choice, he looked up the top five schools in the state in terms of track and field and choir. His list included Whitworth University, Seattle Pacific, Western Washington, Northwest University and Washington State.
"I went and visited and I whittled that list down to Whitworth and SPU, and then I got down to the nit-picky," Otterholt said in a phone interview.
In the end, he ended up selecting Whitworth.
"The campus is beautiful," Otterholt said. "They have four seasons on that side of the state, and I really liked the community. It was a real tight-knit community - everybody knows everybody. Everyone was super helpful, and it just seemed like a more homey campus."
Otterholt definitely intends to make himself at home, as he plans to join the men's choir at Whitworth and audition for the Whitworth Choir, which last year traveled to Norway.
"I've been involved in choir at school since I was in the sixth grade, so it was something I really wanted to have an opportunity to continue," Otterholt said.
The same went for track and field.
Otterholt finished 14th at the Class 2A State Championships in the triple jump last spring and had a personal-best leap of 42 feet, 31/2 inches at the district meet to qualify. He also placed 14th at district in the long jump and had a season-best leap of 19-43/4 this spring and was ninth in the 200 at district and turned in a personal-best time of 23.89 seconds in the event last spring.
He's looking to do even more as a jumper with the Pirates track and field team, which finished 10th this spring at the Division III National Championships.
"I haven't gotten a chance to talk to their jumps coach yet ... but from what I can tell online most of their good jumpers have gradated the past few years," Otterholt said. "I think I have the potential to be on the higher end for them, especially in the triple jump."
Otterholt said he is undecided on his major, but is considering focusing on math.
RAYMOND TO CONTINUE NEW SPORT AT PLU
Before this spring, the only sport Olivia Raymond considered competing in collegiately was gymnastics.
"I've done competitive club gymnastics since I was a young, and practice was year round," Raymond said in a phone interview. "I knew my senior year was my last opportunity to do something else, so I decided to stop gymnastics after the season was over. I always wanted to do a school sport, so I decided to do track."
Turns out, Raymond was able to utilize all the skills she built in gymnastics to become a pretty good pole vaulter for Sehome this spring. In only her first year, Raymond placed sixth in the event at the Class 2A Sub-District meet with a personal-best leap of 10 feet.
That mark was good enough to earn her an invitation to walk on for the Pacific Lutheran University track and field team.
"I emailed the track coach, and they said they'd love to have me on the team," Raymond said. "I don't know a whole lot about the team yet, but I'm excited. ... Pole vault is a rare event, and women's pole vault is even more rare. I only pole vaulted my senior year, but I had a good enough PR that they were interested."
Raymond said she chose PLU over the University of Puget Sound, Lewis & Clark College and Seattle University.
"I liked a lot of things, but I really loved the strong community feel there," Raymond said. "I don't want to feel like I'm a stranger on campus."
Raymond said she plans to major in either International Relations or Business and minor in the other, because "they seem to go together pretty naturally."
HEALTHY HANNAH READY TO RUN AT SWARTHMORE
Running has been a big part of Kate Hannah's life for quite a while now. But it unfortunately took an injury-filled senior year to show her just how important it was to her.
Hannah suffered a hip injury during the track season of her junior year, but it took a while to diagnose it as pinched ligaments in the front of her hip and even longer to heal. And for a competitive runner like Hannah, it seemed like forever, as she had to battle through the injury through much of the cross country season and saw limited action last spring as she tried to rest and strengthen the hip.
"I really tried to take it as a learning experience," Hannah said. "This last year has taught me that running is something I always want in my life, and it was important for me to get that competitive fire back."
Now that her body is starting to feel good, again, Hannah is anxious to show that competitive fire while running for Swarthmore (Pa.) College.
Hannah said she chose the Garnet, which competes in the NCAA Division III Centennial Conference, over American University in Washington, D.C.
"I think it's academically an amazing school," Hannah said. "I like the atmosphere - it's a smaller school. They focus on creating lifelong learners, and there is a real sense of community. ... It's an opportunity for me to go to a really good school but have an amazing athletic opportunity, too."
The Swarthmore women's cross country team placed sixth at the Centennial Conference Championships last year, while the track team finished seventh.
"Their coach seems really knowledgeable, and they just graduated an All-American who set the school record in the 1,500," Hannah said. "They know what they are doing, and they've had some good athletes come through."
In Hannah, the Garnet will get a runner that placed in the top 25 at the Class 2A State Cross Country Championships the past three years and has a personal-best time of 18 minutes, 47.1 seconds at 5,000 meters. She also had personal bests of 2:22.87 and 5:12.02 in the 800 and 1,600 meters during her junior track season.
Hannah said she is undecided on a major, but is leaning toward Political Science.
To report a Whatcom County student athlete planning to compete in college, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 360-715-2286.
MARINERS RUNNING TO THE NEXT LEVEL
A look at the Sehome student athletes who are planning to compete in cross country or track and field in college:
Student athlete Sport College
Natalie Anderson Cross country/track Lewis & Clark College
Emma Crabo Cross county/track Scripps College
Kate Hannah Cross country/track Swarthmore
Reed Henderson Cross country/track Northern Arizona
Lindsay Hodgson Cross country Whitman University
Conner Johnsen Cross country/track Washington State
Brianna Keane Cross country/track Concordia
Meagan McIntyre Cross country/softball Scripps College
Ryan Otterholt Track and field Whitworth University
Olivia Raymond Track and field Pacific Lutheran
Madison Sullivan Cross country/track Lewis & Clark College
Hanna Tarleton Track and field Claremont-McKenna College
Liam Toney Cross country/track Cal Poly Pomona
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.