After winning the individual title at the Class 2A Girls' Cross Country State Championships as a freshman and a sophomore, it'd be easy to assume Emily Pittis would be dissatisfied with anything less as a junior.
That assumption would be absolutely wrong.
Pittis ended up finishing second to Burlington-Edison's RaynJoy Norton on Saturday, Nov. 9, at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, and she couldn't be happier.
"It may sound weird, but it's just a great feeling," Pittis said. "Some might think an individual title is the only thing I would aim for, but in reality, I'm happier today than I was as a freshman."
That's because, unlike in her freshman year, Pittis and her Sehome teammates sat atop the team standings.
The Mariners had four runners standing on the podium and all five scoring runners in the top 25, as they out-pointed second place Bellingham 31-88 to claim the crown.
"It means a lot to me," Pittis said. "I love these girls. We've had kind of a rough season - some ups and downs - and it meant all the world they were able to come out there and give their all and show what Sehome cross country is."
Winning team titles is certainly what this program is about.
Saturday's championship was the Mariners' second straight. It also marked their seventh in eight seasons and increased the program's Washington Interscholastic Activities Association record for girls' team championships in the sport to eight.
"Each one is new and unique," Sehome co-coach Nic Castona said. "For this team for this year, all the past didn't matter. They faced lot of challenges this year and capped it off with a special day."
And the way they accomplished that was by sticking together as a team.
"It was all about my team today," said freshman Ellie Rowan-Arnett, who was right behind Pittis in third place with a time of 18 minutes, 32.00 seconds. "Nothing would be possible without them. I'm so happy they were there for me the entire way. I couldn't do anything with out them."
Rowan-Arnett said that team-first attitude definitely started at the top with Pittis, whom Rowan-Arnett had an unobstructed view of for most of the race.
"I never actually ran with Emily, but I could see her the whole time," Rowan-Arnett said. "She is a great inspiration and an amazing team captain. I kept thinking, 'I hope I can be like that some day.' I kept seeing her and knowing that she could help me."
Pittis, meanwhile, had her sights set on Norton.
But like she has been throughout most this, her senior year, Norton was simply outstanding, breaking Sarah Reiter's three-year-old 2A course record by more than four seconds with her time of 17:58.16.
"She ran amazing," Pittis said. "She's an amazing runner. She went fast. I mean I PRed. I could be, 'Oh my gosh; I won two years,' but I'm really positive about the way I ran, and I'm so happy how we did. There's no way I'd be upset with how we did."
Pittis finished in 18:12.64 - more than four seconds faster than the time she won with as a freshman and a sophomore and the third-fastest 2A time ever run on the state course.
But she didn't have long to soak it all in.
"I was just dead tired," Pittis said. "As soon as I looked behind and saw Ellie, I can't even say how happy I was. It was such a rush of emotion, and we didn't let go. We were just hugging each other. It was the best feeling ever."
The duo was soon joined by freshman Ruby Watson, who was sixth in 18:47.26, and junior Jessa Clark, who was 16th in 19:37.87. Aili Emory's 23rd-place finish in 19:50.75 wrapped up the scoring for the Mariners and the team title. Even Sehome's sixth and seventh runners finished in the top 40 - Rebekah Oviatt in 35th and Dana Ringler in 37th.
"That's an amazing day," Castona said. "Our top five all scored 12 points or less for us. You don't see that very often. Ellie, Jessa, Aili, they all competed well. They all stepped up and ran unbelievable."
Reach David Rasbach at email@example.com or 360-715-2286.
2A GIRLS' TEAM SCORES
School Total 1 2 3 4 5 *6 *7
Sehome 31 2 3 5 9 12 22 24
Bellingham 88 10 13 17 18 30 35 62
Capital 99 4 11 15 33 36 38 62
Lindbergh 172 7 16 34 46 69 99 108
Burlington-Edison 183 1 27 32 50 73 85 -
MOST GIRLS TEAM TITLES
No. School Years
8 Sehome 2013, 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2002
8 Lacey NW Christian 2013, 2012, 2011, 2010, 2009, 2008, 2007, 2006
6 King's 2009, 2007, 2006, 2003, 2002, 2001
5 Mount Baker 2001, 2000, 1999, 1978, 1977
5 Eisenhower 2010, 2000, 1999, 1994, 1989
5 Gig Harbor 2007, 2006, 2005, 1992, 1980
5 Bellevue Newport 2007, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1974
5 Bellarmine Prep 2013, 2004, 1979, 1978, 1977
4 Chelan 1997, 1990, 1989, 1988
4 Spokane East Valley 1997, 1996, 1995, 1994
4 Omak 1998, 1996, 1995, 1992
4 Riverside 2012, 2010, 2005, 1987
4 Snohomish 2003, 2002, 1996, 1995
2009 title added to Lacey Northwest Christian in chart of most team titles.
Reach DAVID RASBACH at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 715-2271.