BELLINGHAM - Sehome girls' cross country co-captain Emily Pittis ended her 5K run during the Northwest Conference Championships in third place, looked around and saw nothing but white and green Mariners' jerseys surrounding her.
Sehome may have left some of its energy out on the Civic Stadium course as they prepare for districts and state, but they could have fooled everyone watching.
"It just brings a smile to my face," said Pittis of watching so many of her teammates earn top finishes. "Whenever I finish, even though I'm like, 'Oh I need to catch my breath,' I can't help, like I saw Jessa (Clark) finishing, and I had to cheer her on. It's a great feeling."
Sehome cruised to a Northwest Conference title Thursday, Oct. 24, with 22 points, beating second-place Bellingham by 51 points. Burlington-Edison finished third with 100 points, Mount Baker had 104 points and Meridian was fifth with 104.
Led by freshman Ruby Watson's second-place finish in a time of 18 minutes, 22 seconds, the Mariners claimed nine of the top-20 finishes. Pittis' third-place time was in 18:28.5, Ellie Rowan-Arnett took fourth with a 18:41.9 and Zanna Sullivan rounded out the top five with a time of 18:45.5.
No Sehome runner could catch Burlington-Edison's RaynJoy Norton, whose 17:46.2 run set a new course record.
Norton led the entire race. Watson and Pittis ran in tandem, but the freshman pulled away during the final 200 meters or so.
"I was planning on taking off on a 5:50 pace, and I ended up running with Emily," Watson said. "We ran most of the way together, and it was helpful to run with her. Then at the end, when we got to the hill, I just started focusing on my kick."
Both Pittis and Watson admitted they could have put together strong races, but with districts and state looming, Sehome's elite runners were enjoying their final race as a whole team and cautiously pushing themselves.
"It's one of those races you go hard, but it's just to get the race under your legs," Pittis explained. "I kind of held myself back, definitely at the end."
Though Sehome tight-roped the idea of not over-running but still performing well, preparing for state Nov. 9 is something the Mariners are used to at this point.
Coaches Kevin Ryan and Nic Castona have implemented the mentality since the beginning of the season.
"We knew at the beginning of the year we could be a ridiculously good team, but we couldn't get ahead of ourselves," Ryan said. "They have done a good job of that - understanding what is important now."
Mount Baker's Kelsie Nern finished sixth with a 18:54.7, Nooksack Valley's Amy Murphy was seventh with a 19:11.5, Clark was eighth with a time of 19:13.6 and Bellingham's Leah Veldhuisen finished ninth with a 19:14.0.
The Mariners' NWC Championships win was a near certainty going in, given their talent level.
The boys' race, though, was much, much closer. One point separated Sehome from a boys-girls sweep and a boys' second-place finish.
Chris Fredlund's 15:50.7 winning time helped Squalicum capture a NWC Championship title over the Mariners. Squalicum finished with a score of 48, Sehome scored a 49, Meridian had 95 points, Anacortes also had 95 and Burlington-Edison placed fifth with 164 points.
"It's always great to win Northwest Conference, but it's not the focus of the season," Squalicum coach Katrina Henry said. "It's fun for the team, and it's fun for the seniors to have that honor."
Fredlund's focus is certainly the state meet, and his confidence grew thanks to a fine performance Thursday. He was trailed by a thick pack of runners from the onset. Every time the lead pack came into view, it seemed Fredlund had run at least one runner off his heels until Sehome's Kirby Overman was the only challenger left with around 400 meters to go. Fredlund turned on his kick at the end, extending the distance between himself and Overman as he approached the finish line.
Leading a run is still something Fredlund is getting used to, Henry said, but the Storm senior won a league title in the end.
"It's big," said Fredlund of his victory. "I really wasn't looking for the win as much as I was the time, but I think overall the whole team ran well, and I don't think there is any reason we can't run well at districts."
Fredlund's teammate, Nick Gallaher, was one of those strong Storm runners. He finished third in a time of 15:58.4. Chais Sugden's 16:32.5 (13th place), Dylan Tomberlin's 16:32.8 (14th), Jared Radtke's 16:37.4 (17th ), Justin Rinauro's 16:42.7 (20th) and Dillon Rinauro's 16:59.8 (29th) each contributed to a team title.
Overman said second place was where he was aiming to finish, and he followed his race strategy of working off Fredlund.
"I felt it went pretty good," Overman said. "Second place was our goal for this week, and next week's districts I'm going to go for it. I just wanted to hang off Chris, cause he's up there. The race went out slow, and I just hung on to Chris and Gallaher also."
Meridian's Collin Magnusson finished fourth with a time of 16:10.7, Sehome's Nathan LeTavec took seventh with a 16:19.1, his teammate Ben Stalheim took ninth with a 16:29.6 and Mount Baker's Shelby Miles rounded out the top 10 with his 16:31.2 run.
Up next is the district meet Saturday morning, Nov. 2, at Lakewood High School in Arlington.
Reach Andrew Lang at email@example.com or call 360-756-2862. Follow @bhamsports on Twitter for sports updates
WATCH VIDEO HIGHLIGHTS
At Civic Stadium
Team scores: 1. Sehome 22; 2. Bellingham 73; 3. Burlington-Edison 100; 4. Mount Baker 104; 5. Meridian 179; 6. Lynden Christian 183; 7. Anacortes 189; 8. Nooksack Valley 203; 9. Ferndale 230; 10. Sedro-Woolley 233; 11. Squalicum 262; 12. Lynden 345.
Top individual finishers: 1. RaynJoy Norton (Burlington-Edison) 17:46.2; 2. Ruby Watson (Sehome) 18:22.0; 3. Emily Pittis (Sehome) 18:28.5; 4. Ellie Rowan-Arnett (Sehome) 18:41.9; 5. Zanna Sullivan (Sehome) 18:45.5; 6. Kelsie Nern (Mount Baker) 18:54.7; 7. Amy Murphy (Nooksack Valley) 19:11.5; 8. Jessa Clark (Sehome) 19:13.6; 9. Leah Veldhuisen (Bellingham) 19:14.0; 10. Stephanie Schlimmer (Sedro-Woolley) 19:15.8
Bellingham: Leah Veldhuisen 19:14.0; Abby Walker 19:26.1; Maya Norton 19:29.0; Julia Latimer 19:31.9; Nicole Burbank 19:47.5; Madeline Prentiss 20:28.3; Sarah Rubin 20:32.1.
Blaine: Hillary Kiele 19:52.5; Hannah Kean 21.04.1.
Ferndale: Jillian Anderson 19:32.8; Jana Peterson 20:42.0; Laura Tkacsik 21:51.0; Gabby Llanos 21:56.5; Katherine Chamblin 22:02.8; Kathryn Vajda 22:28.7; Kara Collins 22:43.0.
Lynden: Grace Sauter 21:36.1; Alex Schulhauser 22:58.5; Frances Sauter 23:02.4; Cynthia Anker 25:06.3; Morgan Nims 25:15.8.
Lynden Christian: Sarah Ball 20:01.4; McKenzie Young 20:47.4; Julia Morris 21:01.3; Kara Veldman 21:20.0; Marissa Hielkema 21:20.8; Ally Visser 21:24.4; Brooke Berendsen 22:16.6.
Meridian: Mimi Meggison 19:24.5; McKenzie Roque 20:37.3; Dena Andrushenko 20:14.3; Tiana Pratt 21:47.5; Briannah Heiniger 21:51.3; Madison Holz 23:41.4.
Mount Baker: Kelsie Nern 18:54.7; Chynna Phan 19:39.8; Rayedeen Engels 20:05.8; Katie Buss 20:12.7; Katherine Dunford 10:19.9; Haley Rollins 20:38.8; Karis Stapp 21:47.2.
Nooksack Valley: Amy Murphy 19:11.5; Chloe Gardner 20:42.4; Jessica Jose 21:25.6; Kelly Jackson 21:32.5; Pearl Morris 22:37.8; Maria Cazares 25:00.2.
Sehome: Ruby Watson 18:22.0; Emily Pittis 18:28.5; Ellie Rowan-Arnett 18:41.9; Zanna Sullivan 18:45.5; Jessa Clark 19:13.6; Rebekah Oviatt 19:16.8; Ali Emory 19:21.4.
Squalicum: Christina Lilleston 21:20.2; Rachel Phipps 21:31.3; Kristin Smith 21:38.7; Sydney Arndorfer 21:59.3; Hailey Linville 22:05.0; Tara Knight 23:14.5; Justine Johnson 23:42.9.
Nooksack Valley: Conner Jones 18:10.5; Zach Harvey 18:21.0; Jordan Hem 18:44.5; Calin Ledet 19:16.8; Taylor Gardner 19:53.5; Shawn Goto-Gierke 20:03.0; Elijah Rohde 20:10.9.
At Civic Stadium
Team scores: 1. Squalicum 48; 2. Sehome 49; 3. Meridian 95; 4. Anacortes 95; 5. Burlington-Edison 164; 6. Bellingham 170; 7. Ferndale 203; 8. Lynden Christian 224; 9. Mount Baker 225; Sedro-Woolley 246; 11. Nooksack Valley 317; 12. Lynden 328; 13. Blaine 359.
Top individual finishers: 1. Chris Fredlund (Squalicum) 15:50.7; 2. Kirby Overman (Sehome) 15:54.5; 3. Nick Gallaher (Squalicum) 15:58.4; 4. Collin Magnusson (Meridian) 16:10.7; 5. Dylan Holland (Anacortes) 16:11.2; 6. Zak Roxborough (Anacortes) 16:15.3; 7. Nathan LeTavec (Sehome) 16:19.1; 8. Wyatt Mullen (Burlington-Edison); 9. Ben Stalheim (Sehome) 16:29.6; 10. Shelby Miles (Mount Baker) 16:31.2.
Bellingham: Sam Gillman 16:50.8; Brian Chmelik 16:57.0; Jamie Sayegh 17:23.4; Aidan Glaze 18:04.0; Grant Rienstra 18:12.3; Jackson Zerba 18:29.4; Levi DeYoung 18:39.5.
Blaine: Parker Morris 17:37.0; Greg Arps 19:05.3; Alex Dodge 19:52.2; Spenser Dodge 20:30.9; Andrew Bullock 22:32.2.
Ferndale: Roberto Aguilera 16:31.8; Kaleb Palmby 16:56.7; Wiley Wright 18:18.1; Matthew Steiber 18:28.3; Zach Sulak 18:49.6; Wesley Cruse 19:11.9; Jacob Ramirez 19:16.4.
Lynden: Thomas Swineford 17:02.7; Jacob Heeringa 18:21.3; Tyler Stokes 19:21.1; Aiden McCaig 19:33.5; Caleb Sterk 20:22.6.
Lynden Christian: Jon Wiley 17:07.5; Connor Blok 17:39.6; Dylan Blok 17:51.8; Erik VanderVelden 18:20.7; Collin Roosendaal 18:50.6; Ryan Pitcher 19:19.4; Stephen Cummins 19:24.6.
Meridian: Collin Magnusson 16:10.7; Davis Phillips 16:31.5; Derek Morrow 16:40.1; David Anderson 16:52.0; Derek Holz 17:44.2; Levi Morrow 17:51.6; Rico Martinez 18:06.5.
Mount Baker: Shelby Miles 16:31.2; Ishmael Villaluz 17:25.8; Josh Meyer 18:19.9; David Godin 18:51.1; Jacob Koranda 18:53.9; Mitchell Pelzer 19:25.3; Kody Kelley 19:27.2.
Sehome: Kirby Overman 15:54.5; Nathan LeTavec 16:19.1; Ben Stalheim 16:29.6; Colton Johnsen 16:36.6; Noah Ringler 16:37.0; Riley Allsop 16:39.8; Zane Markosian 16:57.5
Squalicum: Chris Fredlund 15:50.7; Nick Gallaher 15:58.4; Chais Sugden 16:32.5; Dylan Tomberlin 16:32.8; Jared Radtke 16:37.4; Justin Rinauro 16:42.7; Dillon Rinauro 16:59.8.
Reach ANDREW LANG at firstname.lastname@example.org or call ext. 862.