Wet and windy conditions pushed the 2017 Northwest Conference Cross Country Championships back from Wednesday to Thursday, but that didn’t slow down Bellingham’s sensational top distance runners.
For the third straight year, Annika Reiss won the girls’ individual title, and Cade Brown repeated as champion on the boys side. Both athletes set personal records in the event before next week’s bi-district championships, at South Whidbey High School.
For Reiss, racing against Sedro-Woolley’s Kristen Garcia was the highlight. Garcia finished second by seven seconds and was pushing Reiss the whole time until the Bellingham junior completed the 5,000-meter Civic Stadium course in 17 minutes, 35 seconds.
“I got to race against a really good competitor,” Reiss said. “This is the turning point of the season, so it was really nice to work next to her.”
While Reiss never looked like she would be caught, Brown waited until the perfect opportunity to make his move. For much of the race, Brown was sandwiched between Lynden Christian’s Eric Steiger and Bellingham’s Reed Smith.
On the final lap of the race, Brown used his ability to climb hills quickly to his advantage, and left his competitors in the dust, finishing 15 seconds ahead of Steiger in 15:27.
“I know that I can drive uphill really well,” the senior said. “It’s just a little bit of pain for a big pay off.”
The boys’ race got off to a rocky start, as on the first lap around the track the leader veered to the left when he should have gone right. Only a few athletes followed, but Brown wasn’t one of them.
“We were confused about which way we were supposed to go, because both lanes (the one on to the track and finish line and the lane for that part of the race) were open,” Brown said. “Luckily, the guy in front of me didn’t follow the other guys, and I didn’t get too shifted.”
More streaks continue
Bellingham may have swept the individual titles, but Sehome did some sweeping of its own. For the fourth straight year, the Sehome boys won the team title, and the Mariner girls came away with a team title, as well.
The Sehome girls beat out Bellingham by just one point (56-57) to keep alive its streak of NWC titles that dates back to 2008 – the year the race was first run at Civic Stadium. Rosie Kirker led the charge for Sehome, finishing third (18:08). She was joined in the top 10 by teammates Emma Hageman (sixth, 18:57) and Aspen Allsop (seventh, 19:02).
Reiss was joined in the top 10 by Bellingham’s Grace Much (ninth, 19:15) and Livi Lackland Henry (10th, 19:16). Meridian finished third with 106 points and was led by 11th-place Ashlee VanDenTop (19:17).
Other Whatcom County runners in the top 10 were Nooksack Valley’s Alyce Harlan (fifth, 18:27) and Ferndale’s Jaclyn Denham (eighth, 19:10).
Boys top finishers
Bellingham also finished second to Sehome on the boys side by a 44-82 margin, as the Mariners used Smith’s third-place finish (15:45) along with a fourth-place finish by Lucas Cunningham (15:58) and a 10th-place run by Jacob Alexander (16:26) to pull away.
Ty Veldhuisen joined Brown in the top 10 for the Red Raiders in eighth (16:14), while Lynden finished third with 113 points and was led by Tate Hutchins (sixth, 16:13) and Roscoe Perry (seventh, 16:14). The top 10 was rounded out by Lynden Christian’s Brooks DeWaard (fifth, 16:06) and Meridian’s Jaskaran Dhatt (16:25).