Cade Brown, the Bellingham runner who is known for shaking the hand of every competitor as they come through the finish chute, regardless of whether he finishes first or 50th, had that reputation tested one year ago.
After finishing eighth at the Class 2A State Cross Country Championships as a sophomore in 2015, Brown just had an off day as a junior. He not only finished 31st, his time went up by nearly 48 seconds over what he ran as a sophomore.
“I was distraught afterward,” Brown said. “My friends knew; my family knew; my team knew. ... I just had a bad race, and I was really bummed, because I knew I had only one more year left.”
One year later, Brown got vindication, winning the boys state title with a time of 15 minutes, 26.0 seconds Saturday at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
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“I definitely feel a lot of redemption,” Brown said.
The memory of last year’s race never was far from his mind all year, spurring him to work harder during the offseason and early season practices.
“I wanted to prove to myself, my family and my team that I could be the best of the best,” he said.
No doubt he did that Saturday.
Brown ran a perfect race, sticking with the lead pack. He was second at the one-mile mark behind Archbishop Murphy’s Joshua Rauvola and still second at two miles behind Cedarcrest’s Gran Van Valkenburg.
“I had to hang onto the top guys, but I didn’t want to lead from the get go,” Brown said. “That’s not what my race style is. I hung on their shoulders for all of it. Every time they surged forward and tried to gain ground, I stuck with them.”
Then, with the finish line in sight, Brown made his move, over taking Van Valkenburg about three-quarters of the way down the final hill to the finish line – his winning margin just seven hundredths of a second.
“It was super down to the wire,” Brown said, “but I had foot speed on my side. ... It means everything to me. I’ve been working for four years to get to where I am today. All that work paid off. I think today was the perfect experience after what happened last year.”