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On to state! Cross country runs on

Gavin Imes, a South Whidbey senior, paces behind a few runners at the Westside Classic, a 1A tri-district cross country race. He placed 21st at the race Nov. 2.  - Matt Simms photo
Gavin Imes, a South Whidbey senior, paces behind a few runners at the Westside Classic, a 1A tri-district cross country race. He placed 21st at the race Nov. 2.
— image credit: Matt Simms photo

For the first time in 10 years, South Whidbey’s boys and girls cross country teams will both compete at a state meet.

Both the girls team, long ranked in the top 10 in 1A by a coaches’ poll, and the boys team finished in fifth place — the final qualifying team spot — at the tri-district tournament Saturday.

Thanks to some pack running by the Falcons, especially with their third, fourth and fifth runners, South Whidbey will be represented among the top talent at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco this Saturday. The Falcon boys were boosted by quick 5,000-meter times from freshman Will Simms, sophomore Chris Anderson and junior Anders Bergquist. That South Whidbey trio placed 48th, 49th and 50th, respectively, and moved the Falcons from the eighth-ranked team at the meet to fifth place.

Cole Zink, finally healthy and racing, placed 12th overall in 17:37.07. The junior returned to form as South Whidbey’s top team after some medical issues earlier this year and ran his second-fastest race of the season.

He was followed by senior Gavin Imes in 21st place at 17:52.01. It was a bit slower than his career-best time set the week before, but faster than his other 5,000-meter races this year.

South Whidbey’s girls will return as a team to the state tournament after qualifying last season.

“Girls have overcome a few injuries and sickness in the last couple weeks and will move on with a hard-earned effort,” said Falcon head coach Doug Fulton in an email.

Freshman Anna Leski emerged as the team’s best runner with a personal-best time of 20:20.89. She outpaced her previous-best time by six seconds and claimed fifth place overall. Leski was the only freshman in the top 10.

Falcon sophomore Mallorie Mitchem wasn’t far behind her in a 13th-place finish. Mitchem cruised at the American Lake Golf Course in the Lakewood area for her second-fastest time of the year, 20:33.13.

Jaime Rodden, a first-year cross country runner, returned from missing the Cascade Conference Championship and finished 36th overall. At 21:47.55, the senior’s time was a bit off her previous-best time set at the Blue Heron Golf

Course — considered a “fast” course — by almost a minute.

South Whidbey’s third, fourth and fifth spots were grouped around 50th place. Emma Lungren, a junior, placed 49th in 22:17.16. Freshmen Bethany Justus and Kinsey Eager claimed the last spots to count toward the team’s points. Justus set a personal record of 22:29.19 for 51st place. Eager crossed the finish line in 22:33.44 for 54th place.

By qualifying as teams, South Whidbey will send its entire varsity roster.

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