Sehome's Kirby Overman has never been one to shrink from a challenge.
In fact he kind of relishes the pressures that come with it.
"Kirby's got a no-excuse mentality," Sehome co-coach Kevin Ryan said in a phone interview. "He's the kind of guy who's going to work hard to get through whatever challenge is put in front of him."
And he's got a big one put in front of him this year.
Though he's only a junior, he'll not only be asked to take over as the Mariners' No. 1 runner, he'll also be looked to as a leader by the Mariners as they attempt to repeat as winners of the Class 2A state championship they won last year.
"It's pretty neat - me and Nathan LeTavec have kind of fallen into the role of captain," Overman said in a phone interview. "It's actually pretty comforting, because we have a great team supporting us. We're going to do the best we can for them."
Overman and LeTavec realize their task as team captains won't be easy.
They're taking over a for a strong group of graduated senior leaders that included not one, but two NCAA Division I-caliber runners in Conner Johnsen and Reed Henderson. In fact four members of the team the Mariners took to Pasco last November have moved on.
But Overman said he doesn't see that as a reason Sehome can't put together another strong season.
"As a team, we've had a great history," Overman said. "We're just trying to carry on that tradition. The big goal, obviously, is to be the last one on the podium at state this year."
It would be unwise to count Overman or the Mariners out of attaining that goal.
"He's a guy that knows how to handle pressure," Ryan said. "Even as a freshman, he had a lot of pressure put on him. Usually boys have a chance to get their legs under them. They don't have to perform right off the bat, but everybody was looking to Kirby right away because of what his older brother did."
Overman's older brother, Clinton, placed second at the state meet during his senior season in 2008, helping the Mariners claim a team title.
Though the pressure may have been there because of who his older brother is, Overman said he never felt it - or at least never let it bother him.
"I think it's understandable that people compare us," Overman said. "It's just how things work. It's my brother, and it feels good to know that I'm being compared to someone who was so successful in the past. I know what I need to do with my own high school career. I mean, he's my older brother, and I look up to him and what he did. But now that I'm here, I want to try to beat him. I don't really feel any pressure on me to beat him."
Ryan said the team also put a lot of pressure on Overman as a sophomore last year, and it had nothing to do with his last name.
"As a sophomore, he was a critical guy for us, being the No. 3 runner behind two of the better runners in the state," Ryan said. "That's a tough position to be in for a young guy, but he performed."
And performing is exactly what the Mariners expect out of him again this year, as they'll likely look to him as their No. 1 runner throughout the season.
As you would expect, it's a challenge Overman is already looking forward to.
"I never really think about what pressure is put on me," Overman said. "I just focus on the things I need to do and don't pay attention to what other people expect of me or what could happen or what might happen. I just focus on what I need to do to get the best result for myself and the team."
As he's become a more mature runner, Overman has learned that sometimes evan means not answering a challenge, Ryan said.
Last spring during track season, Overman had to shut things down for two months with a tendonitis issue in his right Achilles to make sure he was healthy once the cross country season rolled around.
"It was pretty disappointing," he said. "I was looking forward to the track season and seeing if I could qualify for state and accompany Conner (in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters)."
When healthy, there's little doubt that Overman had the ability to do just, as he always seems to bring his best to the biggest meets.
Last year he placed 23rd overall at the state meet despite not feeling 100 percent, Ryan said. He finished 81st as a freshman.
He also scored a top-10 finish at the Northwest Conference Championships last fall with a personal-best time of 16 minutes, 1.47 seconds.
"He craves the competition," Ryan said. "He understands what's expected of him, and he looks forward to it. The big meets at the end of the year, he was excited to go and excited to take on people. Where some people might shy away, he likes the challenge."
And this year that's a mentality he hopes to share with his teammates.
"Our team definitely has a lot of potential this year," Overman said. "I know we lost a lot of seniors from last year, but I feel we still have a lot of potential, and we feel we can have a pretty good showing."
Reach David Rasbach at firstname.lastname@example.org or 360-715-2286.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at email@example.com or call 715-2271.