Arguing the Class 2A State Championships Meet wasn’t Sehome’s most important race may lack credence, but for senior Colton Johnsen and the Mariners the Ninth Annual Twilight Cross Country Invitational meant the most.
Sehome, brimming once again with running talent, cruised through the year’s first half, blowing out teams while collecting race titles.
Then came Cedarcrest’s Twilight Invitational.
Johnsen for the first time was learning how to lead races after finishing amongst mostly the second tier last fall. But he enjoyed a breakout moment during the Invite, topping a talent-rich field with a time of 15 minutes, 55 seconds.
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It hasn’t really set in. Our coach told us that, and everyone has been telling you that. It was really exciting at first. It’s surreal in a way.
Sehome’s Colton Johnsen on Sehome’s state times being better than any Mariners team before 2015.
He’d become fully comfortable leading and winning a race.
“At the start of the year I was just trying to get top 10 (in state),” Johnsen said. “At the end, after about the Twilight Meet, I felt like I could have won.”
Although Johnsen thrived, Sehome only beat second-place Lindbergh by 12 points. The rare scare rejuvenated a Mariners team poised to win its fourth title in as many years.
“We were kind of going into it overly confident,” Johnsen admitted. “At first we thought we might have lost, and it turned out to be a lot closer than we wanted it to be. It was in the middle of the year, and that refocused us.”
57 Points Sehome beat second-place Liberty by at the 2A State Championships
Johnsen finished second during the 2A State Championships with a time of 15:36.2, and with the help of fellow senior leaders Riley Allsop and Sam Gillman and the Mariners easily won a state title with 55 points. Second place Liberty scored 112.
For an impressive season and the ability to lead Sehome to arguably its best season in program history, Johnsen has been selected The Bellingham Herald’s All-Whatcom County Boys’ Runner of the Year. Sehome coach Kevin Ryan, who guided the Mariners to their fourth consecutive championship, has been selected Coach of the Year.
Johnsen seamlessly progressed through Sehome’s cross country machine. His times improved each season and an increased focus on offseason training between his junior and senior year had Johnsen poised to place his own stamp on the Mariners’ running program.
Johnsen had hoped, he said, to place himself among former Sehome greats Jake Riley, Mason McHenry, Scott Carlyle, his brother Conner Johnsen, Kirby Overman, etc., and while he didn’t win a state title — finishing 0.6 seconds behind winner Dylan Holland — Johnsen can take solace in guiding one of the program’s most dominant teams.
“It hasn’t really set in,” said Johnsen of the fact Sehome’s state times were better than any Mariners team before his. “Our coach told us that, and everyone has been telling you that. It was really exciting at first. It’s surreal in a way.”
Much of the team’s success could be attributed to Johnsen’s leadership and the standard Allsop, Gillman and he set.
“Last year Kirby led the team, and I just did whatever Kirby said,” Johnsen said. “This year it was kind of like I had more on my plate. I didn’t just have to worry about me. I had to worry about everyone.”
And that proved to be no problem.