Runners stay together for high invite finish

"Freshman Nathan Chambers does his bit to keep his team in Saturday's race as he battles for 55th place as the Falcons' number-six runnerMatt Johnson, staff phot.Bunched together with a bunch of freshmen, a whole bunch of South Whidbey runners couldn't have been much happier on Saturday.Out to promote togetherness as strategy for winning, the South Whidbey High School boys and girls cross country teams used their mob instinct to defend their home turf at the South Whidbey Invitational. Led on the girls side by freshman runner Becky Gabelein and bolstered on the boys side by freshman Drew Aernie, the two teams came up with more unique ways of winning at the meet.For the second time this year, junior Brandon Bilyeu led the Falcon boys, placing 23rd out of 83 runners to pace the team to a sixth-place team finish in the last of four races Saturday. His time of 17:38 was the fastest run by a Falcon on a home course that snakes over 3.1 miles of hills, trails, and fields between the high school and the South Whidbey Community Park.Bilyeu's speediness pulled a number of other teammates along. Close behind, sophomore James Sundquist filled the team's number-two spot as he ran to 27th overall. Surprising sophomore rookie Jeff Strong tracked close behind his team leader, finishing only 14 seconds off Bilyeu's pace. Also bunched with the group was senior Joe Candelario, whose time of 17:54 was one second slower than the inspired run he took on the same course four days earlier in a conference triangular.Aernie might have been the biggest surprise for the Falcons. More than 30 seconds ahead of the pace he set Tuesday, the freshman standout was only six spots behind Candelario at the line - positioning the team needed to stay near the state's top-ranked 2A team, Elma, which placed fourth in the meet.Falcon girls follow trendEarlier in the day, the Falcon girls set the trend the boys followed in their race. Juggling their lineup into a unique order for the fourth time this year, the team had three leaders to pull them to a third-place team finish. Karen Schwager, Becky Gabelein, and Callie Supsinkas ran out front through much of the race, then battled each other for placings at the finish line. Gabelein, who is a freshman, had the best kick of the trio and finished tops for the team in seventh place. Schwager and Supsinkas were not far behind, nor was freshman Nancy Godsey, who grabbed a surprising 23rd place. Sophomore rookie Claudia Gil-Osorio rounded out the scoring five for the team, placing 46th in a 61-runner field.Missing from the Falcon lineup was Julie Gabelein. One of the team's fastest runners, Gabelein was recovering on the sidelines from pneumonia.After the meet, a poll of cross country coaches from across the state ranked the South Whidbey girls as the second-best team in the 2A division, just behind their district rivals Mount Baker. The boys are as yet unranked. "

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