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Lady runners live up to expectations

"BOX SCOREWashington State 2A Cross Country Championship, Sun Willows Golf Course, Pasco: 3.1 milesTeams: Mount Baker 52, Omak 74, Riverside 98, Cascade (Leavenworth) 105, Ilwaco 123, South Whidbey 126, LaCenter 145, Lynden Christian 184Individuals: 1. Emily Turner (Omak) 19:11; 2. Grace Coulter (Blaine) 19:21; 3. Bobeya Krishnek (Mount Baker) 19:22; 4. Cassie Weyhmiller (Port Townsend) 19:23; 6. Lisa Depender 19:27; 35. Julie Gabelein 20:58; 49. Kirsten Smethurst 21:45; 52. Jessie Enell 21:51; 57. Megan Kelly 22:12; 58. Karen Schwager 22:16; 61. Elisha Ishii 22:29 (72 total runners)There are few times in a coach’s career that bring more pride than when his athletes do exactly what he expects them to do.Showing they are able to live up to high coaching expectations, the South Whidbey girls cross country team placed sixth at Saturday’s state cross country meet in Pasco. It was what their coach, Doug Fulton, expected at the first day of practice way back in August, and what statewide coaches polls have predicted all season long.And, it was what the team’s seven varsity runners worked for all season.“The bottom line is that we’re happy with sixth place,” Fulton said this week while reflecting on the season.The race was significant to the team in several ways. It marked the team’s 10th state appearance in 10 years. And it proved that a strong feeder program at Langley Middle School is turning out runners who can keep up with or even surpass the marks set by great runners of the past, like Sandy Gabelein, Leann Hymas, and Megan Maynard.The Falcons’ number-one runner, junior Lisa Depender, joined this rank of runners when she had the race she had been hoping for all year. On a wet course soaked by a rainstorm the night before, Depender went out with the leaders, hovering between 11th and eighth place for more than two miles. With just a few hundred meters to go, she could see several of her closest competitors from district meet -- such as Blaine’s Grace Coulter and Bobeya Krishnek of Mount Baker -- out front and opening a gap. She said that was when she decided it was time to pick off a few more runners before the finish.It was easier than she expected. She was sixth overall at the finish line.“I think I got a little worried,” Depender said. “They just started to drop off.”In addition to her all-state placing, Depender ran career-best, shaving 14 seconds off her state run last year to stop the clock at 19:27. Falcon coach Doug Fulton said cutting that much time at that level is one of the most difficult things an elite runner like Depender can do.“It’s hard to knock time down when you get as fast as she’s getting,” Fulton said.Behind her, freshman Falcon Julie Gabelein also had a career race. Unaffected by the freshman jitters young runners often get at their first state meet, she placed 35th in a personal-best 20:58.The remainder of the varsity runners backed Gabelein and Depender with solid runs. Kirsten Smethurst and Jessie Enell ran side-by-side for much of the race to haul in 49th and 52nd place points for the team. Sophomore Megan Kelly had a surprisingly good run for the team, racing at Pasco after an ankle sprain in last week’s district championship race. She placed 57th overall. Rounding out the varsity were sophomore Karen Schwager and senior Elisha Ishii, who both ran times similar to their races at district.In addition to their team placing, the girls team received other honors. They were named the academic state champions for the second year in a row for the varsity team’s combined 3.941 grade point average. State cross country officials also honored the team’s former coach, Carl Westling, by inducting him into the Washington Coaches Hall of Fame.For her sixth-place finish, Lisa Depender will be an alternate to the Washington/Oregon Border Race at the Nike campus in Beaverton, Ore. The race puts the best high school runners in all categories in both states into one race after the regular cross country season ends."

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