Boy runners hunt state title

"Photo: Scott Perkins, Brandon Bilyeu, Bruce Hymas, and Michael Johnson are just four of the Falcon boys who will gun for a state cross country championship this fall.Matt Johnson/staff photoLast spring, South Whidbey soccer coach Mark Helpenstell predicted that his team would win the state 2A title. He came close. They lost the championship game and placed second.Tim Gordon refuses to make the same prediction for his boys cross country team, even though the Falcons are already the acknowledged champions in the eyes of almost every cross country coach in the state. The team's statistics from the 1999 season are enough to satisfy any veteran coach. They won both the North Cascades Conference championship and the bi-district championship. At state, juniors Braden Giswold, Brett Perkins, and Bruce Hymas paced the team with 5th, 10th, and 13th place finishes to earn a third-place trophy.Now, these three runners with names starting with 'B' are seniors. And they have some serious backup. Sophomores Brandon Turner and Brandon Bilyeu proved themselves worthy last year of joining the team's exclusive club of Killer Bs at state, as did junior Joe Candelario and sophomore Ryan Aragon (even though their names don't start with 'B'). Their coach said running is all the boys have been able to think about for the past few months.They've been talking about the season since track season, he said.The Falcons promise to be hot right out of the gate in September. They have put on more total summer mileage than any past team their coach can remember.They seemed more motivated this summer, Gordon said.They needed to be. Just because they are the state favorite does not mean the Falcons will have an easy time in post season meets. State champion Omak and runner-up East Valley Yakima will still have two of the classiest cross country programs in the state this year, even though they both lost key runners to graduation. In the district and the NCC, the Falcons could even see challenges from Port Townsend and Lynden Christian, teams coach Gordon said may have grown up a little since last season.Scrutinized by coaches around the state, it may seem that the Falcons have no surprises to spring on the competition this year. Not true, Gordon said. Rookies Andy Wills and James Sundquist will bring good speed to the middle of the Falcon pack and will be ready to fill in the meet scoring if any of the team's top finishers turn up injured or have bad days. Also ready to step up will be four-year senior veterans Michael Johnson and Hart Boyd, and sophomore Joe Gunn.Their coach said he likes having all these options open.We're a pretty deep team, he said.When the team does arrive at this season's state meet in Pasco, it will get off the bus with four years of solid state experience under its belt. This year, Gordon said, his runners will be able to think only about running. They got over the glamor of the state meet last year.We'll concentrate more on the physical part of it, he said.The Falcons open their season Sept. 7 at the League Jamboree at the Mount Vernon campus of Skagit Valley Community College. "

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