Runners to cut new trail to state

"Without the Killer Bs or longtime coach Tim Gordon this year, Falcon runners like Finn Keough, James Sundquist, Tim Gabelein, Joe Candelario, and Brandon Bilyeu are starting a new era for the Falcons.Matt Johnson / staff photoThere are some new stars rising on South Whidbey High School's boys and girls cross country teams.Last fall, the boys' Killer Bs - Braden Giswold, Brett Perkins, and Bruce Hymas - took their final run on their way to pacing the Falcons to second place at the state meet in Pasco.At the same race, the girls' Killer De's - seniors Lisa Depender and Sarah DeGraff - also made their exit on a high note thanks to a third-place team finish.This season, the runners who backed those five seniors will step out from their shadows as they try to take the team to state for third year in a row.I think we're going to surprise a lot of people, said Joe Candelario, a senior captain for the boy Falcons.Candelario will be at the head of a cadre of young runners who amazed coaches around the state last year with their ability to run at the head of the pack. Sophomores James Sundquist and Jasper Hein, and junior Brandon Bilyeu were at the heart of every meet win the team earned and promise to do the same this season. Unfortunately they will be without junior talent Andy Wills, who after placing 82nd in Pasco last year decided to go back to playing on the Falcon football team.But with the loss of Wills comes the gain of two long-lost runners. Seniors Finn Keough and Tim Gabelein - both of whom ran as freshmen in 1998 - are back on the team after a two-year hiatus.Among all the familiar faces is a pool of unknown talent. The boys team attracted 21 freshmen to its ranks, a group led by 2000 middle school conference champion Drew Aernie. Falcon coach Doug Fulton, who is coaching both the boys and girls teams this year, said it will take a few races for the younger runners to get used to the longer, 3.1 mile high school races. Of course, he said, the freshmen boys could surprise him.Even the young kids came in in pretty good shape, he said.Girls team has state dreamsTwo four-year runners and a three-year junior will be the running authority of the girls cross country team.Seniors Karen Schwager and Michelle Mast and junior Julie Gabelein know their team still has what it takes to get to state. After qualifying for the meet 12 years in a row, the Falcon girls can hardly do anything but. Though missing the talent of last year's seniors and state veterans Kirsten Smethurst, Malena Hymas, and Megan Kelly, the team has a few spots to fill in its lineup before Thursday's jamboree meet in Mount Vernon.Coach Fulton said he is not certain who will move into those spots, but he said 14 freshmen recruits and some of the team's sophomores may be up to the task. He said he has little doubt that his team, though depleted, is state material.We'll have a good shot at going to state, he said.Gabelein should be the team's leader on the race course after her 27th-place finish in Pasco last year, but Schwager - who seemed to have a running epiphany during the spring track season - will be close behind. Also bringing state experience to this year's team is sophomore Courtney Hatt, who was 67th in last season's finale.The 2001 season starts fast, with both teams heading to big invitational meets next Saturday. The Falcons make their first home appearance on Sept. 12. "

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