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LMS still churning out the best runners

"LMS principal Greg Willis congratulates eighth grader Drew Aernie for his win at the middle school league championship Oct. 25.Matt Johnson / staff photoIn three years, the Langley Middle School boys and girls cross country team has lost only one meet. That one meet, the 1999 middle school league championships, was the one they did not want to lose.Three weeks ago, the 45 runners on the team made certain that the 2000 league meet would not be another big one that got away. Matched against a dozen 3A and 4A middle school cross country teams, the Cougars reclaimed their league championship on their 1.4 mile home course at South Whidbey High School to cap an undefeated season.Running in four races -- one each for seventh-grade girls, seventh-grade boys, eighth-grade girls and eighth-grade boys -- the Cougars swamped the top 20 of nearly every race with blue uniforms on their way to a 308 point team total. Centennial was their closest competition, finishing with 370 points.In the day's first race, the seventh-grade girls gave the other league teams a preview of things to come. With 107 runners on the course, the Cougars ran as a group, placing second in the 12-team race. Led by Kaylee Baldwin's 9:45, 7th place race and Lucy Brennan's 9:49 effort for 9th, all five of the Cougar scorers finished in the top 30.Other scorers for the team were Mary Bakeman in 16th place, Natasha Knowlton-Woods in 21st, and Katherine East in 27th. Also running in the race were Rita Jones, Jessica Burgess, Jenna Wild, Maria Bottenburg, Katie Roemer, Sarah Weber, Kellie Robinson, Elise Cole, Daile St. Vincent, Laura Poolman, and Anna MacDonald.The seventh-grade boys were not quite able to equal the girls' performance, but they ran well enough to keep LMS in the hunt for the overall team championship. Chris Depender was the first Cougar across the line, placing 13th on a 9:13 performance. Next were Jesse Coble and Matt Statz in 22nd and 25th. Orson Ossman and Ryan Canton rounded out the scoring, followed into the finish chute by a phalanx of teammates including Duncan Adams, Oliver Shafaat, Sean Kaiser, Conner Chin and Joe McArdle.In the day's fourth race, the eighth-grade girls turned on all the burners to heat their race to the melting point. Kelly DeGraaf paced the undefeated Cougar girls to a dominating 31-point, first-place team finish by running to second place. Just 13 seconds behind her 9:22 finish, Becky Gabelein shadowed DeGraaf in, placing fourth. Behind them, Nancy Godsey, Natalie Hollyfield and Kelsyn Graham-Wright kept the race impossibly close, racing to 6th, 9th and 10th places. The scorers had plenty of backup as well, with Kelly Schorr, Shannon Schrecengost, Shae Meehan and Marci Strong also running strong races.Joining the girls on the champions podium were the eighth-grade boys. Though they are not the kind of team that can jam the top 10 full of runners, the boy Cougars won the team trophy with both flash and solid running. Drew Aernie had a corner on the flash market in the race. He pulled out ahead of the race and never looked back until after he had crossed the finish line in first place. His 8:19 final time was the best of any runner in any race. Close behind Aernie was Ari Strickland, who was fourth, just16 seconds back. Michael Veeder was the Cougars' only other top 20 finisher, ending his race in 12th place. The Cougars' last two scorers, Justin Serrill and Arlan Dirkson, also had their eyes on the prize, running near enough to the front to place in the top 30. Also racing were Hing Potter, Tyler Rueth, Kyle Cramer, Shawn Morris and Matt Bolvin.The week prior to the league meet, the Cougars got a tune-up at the Lynden Invitational. Running together, the seventh- and eighth-grade girls dominated the 130-runner race, placing seven runners in the top 15. Becky Gabelein and Kelly DeGraaf led the team with third- and fourth-place finishes. The boys had a closer race in which their runners were spread throughout the top 30. But headed by Drew Aernie and Ari Strickland, the team pulled out a narrow victory, winning the team competition by 8 points.This season's league win for the Cougars was their second in three years. "

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