Sports

South Whidbey’s White and Stelling qualify for state

Lillianna Stelling approaches the finish line to secure her berth in the state 2A championship race. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Lillianna Stelling approaches the finish line to secure her berth in the state 2A championship race.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

LANGLEY — In a way, South Whidbey cross country’s goal to make state was met.

South Whidbey High School will be represented in the girls cross country race this Saturday.

Chantal White, a senior, and Lillianna Stelling, a sophomore, both qualified as top 20 runners in the District 1 race on Oct. 30 at South Whidbey High School.

“Our girls ran really hard,” South Whidbey cross country head coach Doug Fulton said. “Our top four were all 20:32 and faster.”

“Those were good times, especially on a course which was a little slow with all the rain on the grass,” he said.

White finished 14th out of a field of 84 racers. White finished in 20 minutes, 5.39 seconds in the 5,000-meter race.

“It’s an honor and I’m really excited,” White said.

“I don’t think I’ve wanted anything more than to run and compete in state my senior year.”

Stelling ran her career-best time and secured the final individual spot for state in 20th place in 20 minutes, 10.43 seconds.

“It felt great,” Stelling said. “It was good at the beginning, I was feeling really relaxed, then there was a false start.”

A girl fell in the opening stretch and the race was called back and reset.

Stelling planned to stick with Keely Craig and White. Coming down the final hill ,Stelling heard a spectator yell to the girl in front of her that she was in 19th place.

“I made sure there was nobody close behind,” Stelling said. “I knew I had to do well for the team.”

“It was really nice having all the football guys there cheering us on,” she added.

None of South Whidbey’s boys qualified for state. Senior Ben Saari finished in 17 minutes, 18.04 seconds — good for 28th place.

Fulton said he was impressed by his team’s times. Fulton called the South Whidbey course slow and explained the rain and wind added to the difficulty of the course, but made his teams’ performances more impressive.

All season the South Whidbey girls team had the goal to return to the state meet. South Whidbey’s girls cross country team last competed in the state tournament in 2007. This year, the girls missed qualifying for state by nine points. South Whidbey finished with 136 points.

“It was a heartbreak not to make it,” Fulton said. “We just didn’t quite get it.”

White compared this year’s times to previous years and considered it the most competitive field she raced in.

“We worked really hard,” White said. “Even being fifth is a huge accomplishment to be proud of, because our district is so competitive.”

Cascade Conference opponent Lakewood High School edged out South Whidbey for fourth place with 127 points. Sehome and Bellingham high schools finished first and second in team points.

“The three and four spots were wide open, so we knew one of us was going to miss out,” Fulton said.

The competition for White and Stelling will be a challenge. Athletic.net, a website to which Washington cross country coaches report results, lists White with the 47th best time in 2A with 20 minutes, 0.34 seconds. Stelling’s time from the district meet moved her to 60th place. Seven of last year’s top 10 finishers will possibly return to the state meet, including Marina Roberts (Kingston) and Sanne Holland (Cheney), who finished in second and third place respectively. Cascade Conference rival Cara Strodel (Cedarcrest) will also compete at the state race. Last year Strodel, now a senior, finished in fifth place.

Even though the team missed out on competing at the state championship, Fulton said many members plan to travel and support White and Stelling. Senior captains Emily Martin and Ben Saari, and junior Keely Craig will travel with the team on Thursday.

Since South Whidbey hosted the district race, Fulton was occupied as the host and not always available to coach. He praised his team’s responsibility and maturity to warm up, stretch and report to the starting lines.

Both White and Stelling want to finish under 20 minutes at state.

“I want to go out and give it my all, and not have any regrets,” White said.

The cross country 2A girls championship race begins at 11 a.m. Saturday at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

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