Sunfair shines on Falcon runners

"By MATT JOHNSONStaff reporterLisa Depender runs a the South Whidbey Invitational earlier this fall. Depender led her team to a 2A victory at the Sunfair Invitational in Yakima Saturday.Jim Larsen, staff photoSunfair InvitationalGirls 2A team scores (49 total): 1. S. Whidbey 171, 2. Ephrata 187, 3. Riverside 189. Individual results Flight 1 - 1. Leila Shiraiawa (Gig Harbor) 20:24, 22. Hatt (SW) 22:46; Flight 2 - 1. Mikell Gibbons (Eisenhower) 20:05, 23. Kirsten Smethurst 22:17; Flight 3 - 1. Samantha Clarke (St. George's) 19:32, 23. Hymas (SW) 21:54; Flight 4 - 1. Amie Dahnke (University) 19:28, 28. Schwager (SW) 21:53; Flight 5 - 1. Emily McMahon (Mountainview) 19:07, 23. Julie Gabelein (SW) 21:11; Flight 6 - 1. Amanda Miller (Ephrata) 19:01, 29. DeGraff (SW) 21:04; Flight 7 - 1. Gimme Moore-Adams (Newport) 17:58, 23. Depender (SW) 19:48.Boys 2A team scores (49 total):1. East Valley-Yakima 124, 2. S. Whidbey 146, 3. Naches Valley 189. Individual resultsFlight 1 - 1. Brennon Poyner (Mt. Spokane) 16:51, 13. Sundquist (SW) 17:45; Flight 2 - 1. Tim Denney (Flathead) 16:58, 29. Andy Wills (SW) 18:12; Flight 3 - 1. Eric Bundy (Flathead) 16:26, 46. Candelario (SW) 18:37; Flight 4 - Caleb Ambrose (Flathead) 16:09, 26. Bilyeu (SW) 17:39; Flight 5 - 1. Kurt Michels (Flathead) 15:42, 7. Perkins (SW) 16:36; Flight 6 - 1. Seth Watkins (Flathead) 15:26, 6. Hymas (SW) 16:14; Flight 7 - 1. Michael Kiter (Shadle Park) 15:18, 19. Giswold (SW) 16:16While listening to the top three team places being read at Saturday's Sunfair Invitational in Yakima, South Whidbey's girl cross country runners could feel their hearts sink.Hoping to place among the top three 3A schools at the 49-team meet, the Falcons thought they heard their dream slip away when Riverside was announced as the third place team, then completely dissolve when Ephrata was named the runner-up. When the announcer linked the words South Whidbey with 2000 Sunfair Invitational 2A champions, the Falcon runners and their coach, Doug Fulton, could hardly believe their ears.We were shocked to hear the announcement that we were the winners, Fulton said.The lady Falcons last ran at Sunfair in 1995, but have never finished as well as they did Saturday. The meet is considered the Northwest's most prestigious. With the win, the team vaulted into the number-one ranking in a state-wide coaches poll, passing up season-long favorite Ephrata.At the same time, South Whidbey's boys team placed second in the 2A competition, finishing 22 points behind East Valley-Yakima. Combined, the teams put together South Whidbey's finest invitational performance in years.Coach Fulton said girls' success was fueled in part by senior Lisa Depender's breakthrough run at the meet. Troubled since early this season by allergies, Depender shook off her breathing troubles to place 23rd in the fastest of seven individual flights of the day. Sarah DeGraff, Julie Gabelein, Karen Schwager, and Malaena Hymas added strong, consistent efforts to the team score, each one covering the 3-mile course between 21 and 22 minutes. Kirsten Smethurst and Courtney Hatt were not far behind in the sixth and seventh flights, as both aired out the hilly, grass-covered course in less than 23 minutes.Fulton said he does not like having a his team at the top of the state rankings so early in the season, but he will take it. But, because of recent injuries, he said it will be at least two weeks before he knows what his team's post-season prospects are.In the next two weeks, we'll have a good idea of how we're going to do at the end of the year, he said.If he had his way, Fulton would prefer to be in the same situation as Falcon boys cross country coach Tim Gordon. By finishing second to East Valley Saturday, the South Whidbey boys dropped out of the top spot in the coaches poll to second, taking some of the pressure off they have felt all season.The fastest Falcon at the Yakima race was senior Bruce Hymas, who lead the team by placing sixth in the second-fastest flight of the day. Two seconds behind Hymas' 16:14 final time was Braden Giswold, who placed 19th in the fastest heat. Also turning in strong performances were Brett Perkins, Brandon Bilyeu, Andy Wills, and James Sundquist. Junior Joe Candelario struggled a bit more than his teammates, hampered by nagging injuries in the fifth flight, but still turned in a sub-19-minute time.The Falcons run next on Oct. 3 in Granite Falls. "

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