Much-improved Blaine senior Parker Morris says that if he had to, he would give up a top 20 individual finish at state to see his team qualify and bring back the historic satisfaction Morris enjoyed as a freshman.
“My best goal is to see our team qualify for state,” Morris said after leading the Borderites to the boys’ team title of the Mount Baker Invitational at Silver Lake Park on Saturday, Sept. 26. “I’d rather be 40th at state and see our entire team qualify. I remember how much fun it was to be at state for the first time in coach (Carey) Bacon’s long career.”
Race favorite Roberto Aguilera, a Ferndale senior, lived up to his expectations with first place and a personal best of 15 minutes, 49 seconds on the 4,780 meter course (slightly less than the normal 3.1 miles for 5K). Morris ran a PR of 16:24.
Class 2A Blaine edged 3A Ferndale by the narrowest of possible margins, 72-73 (low score wins), meaning every effort by Morris, potential-filled freshman Dylan Grimme (9th in 17:17) and seniors Zach Oakley (18th), Tristan Soto (20th) and Greg Arps (23rd) made the crucial difference.
The affable Aguilera, 19th at 3A state last year, has much higher expectations.
“Top 5,” he said with a grin, noting he improved his PR on the Silver Lake course by 40 seconds. “15:58 is still my PR on a full 5K course.”
Nooksack Valley senior Conner Jones also logged a PR for third in 16:41.9. The other top 10 runners from Whatcom County were Meridian junior Derek Holz (sixth in 16:59.6), Squalicum junior Ian Tomberlin (seventh 17:02.9) and Mount Baker freshman Kelly Zak (10th in 17:20.4).
In the girls’ race, former Mount Baker coach Tyler Mitchell, now at Class 3A Lynnwood, saw his outstanding team take the title with 31 points, followed by strong showings from 1A rivals Meridian (57) and Nooksack Valley (59).
Nooksack senior Amy Jo Murphy was thrilled with her PR of 18:22.70, good for third behind Lynnwood sister stars Malia Pivec (17:32.1) and Mikayla Pivec (18:06.7).
“That’s an awesome time for me, about a minute better than my personal best (which won the meet last year),” said Murphy. ’’Today, my time was most important. I‘m super excited about this time.”
Nooksack co-coach Jay Sloane agreed.
“Low to mid 18s, that was the goal today for Amy Jo,” he said. “She ran tough against two 3A state contenders.”
Murphy is too humble to say it, so Sloane did: “Amy Jo is going for the 1A state title. She should be in the mix for first place. This was her first true summer of intense training.”
Mount Baker senior Natalie Smith was a solid fourth with a PR of 19:21.7, followed by Meridian sophomore Ashlee Van Den Top in fifth at 19:38.6 and Meridian junior Dena Andrushenko in sixth at 20:11.8. Squalicum sophomore Grace Oswin was ninth at 21:19.1 and Nooksack sophomore Alyce Harlan was 10th at 21:20.
Van Den Top met her goal of breaking 20 minutes. Smith, meanwhile, has hopes to add a podium (top eight) finish in cross country to titles in wrestling (she was second last year) and the 800 meters in track (she won that as a junior).
“The competition is super tough, but I want to medal in the top eight,” she said. “You have to set your goals high. I felt pretty good today and my goal was to break 20 minutes.”
Baker coach Rob Gray was impressed with the fast-improving Smith.
“Natalie’s just a stud,” said Gray. “She works really, really hard. For her, every day at practice is like race day.”
In the nine-team boys’ team finish, Meridian (92) was fourth, Nooksack and Squalicum both had 149 points, just behind fifth-place Omak’s 148, and Baker had 164. The other full local girls’ teams in a five-team race were Baker (88) in fourth and Squalicum (102) in fifth.