Stelling places at North County Invitational, Zink sits out with hurt foot

Lilli Stelling hits the final stretch of her sixth-place run Thursday night.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Lilli Stelling hits the final stretch of her sixth-place run Thursday night.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

MARYSVILLE — Lilli Stelling placed at the North County Invitational in a tune up before the conference and district meets in the coming weeks.

Stelling, a junior, was the Falcons’ best runner for the girls cross country team. She overcame an illness the day before and finished in sixth place in 20 minutes and 25.20 seconds.

“I felt like I was going faster, but I did not (set) a personal record,” Stelling said.

“I definitely wanted it to be a faster time,” she added.

The clear, 55-degree weather was more difficult than previous meets. It may have affected her time on a course that is known for producing fast times.

“It’s really cold,” Stelling said. “I think it took a little longer to warm up. My legs felt pretty cold, but my upper body was a little bit tenser.”

The Falcon boys’ captain, senior Will Zink, did not race.

As the last regular season meet, Falcon head coach Doug Fulton elected to rest Zink, who is recovering from a foot injury incurred last week.

“The guys that are hurt we wanted to rest a little bit,” Fulton said.

“We don’t have to run this one if we don’t want to. But, we want to stay fresh. These races are just workouts, so this is a hard workout for us right before league championships,” he added.

A first-year cross country athlete had the Falcons’ best time. Noah Moeller, a senior, finished in 18:00.82.

“I felt pretty good about the time,” he said. “I got a bit of a side ache at about the two mile.”

As a novice, Moeller has learned each course on the run. They’re all different, and it makes developing a strategy difficult.

“It’s always tough for each course, because I don’t know,” Moeller said. “This course, I feel more tired than the last ones. I’m getting better and better with pacing myself.”

He learned quickly to appreciate the finish at Cedarcrest Golf Course. The race course begins near the clubhouse, then goes uphill, around a tree barrier, downhill, uphill and ends on a long flat stretch.

“I liked the downhill finish and the long straightaway because I’d rather sprint than go the long distance course.”

Despite being the Falcons’ best runner Thursday, Moeller was stark in his assessment of potentially qualifying for the state championship.

“To go to state, I need to be able to run faster,” he said. “And I don’t think running just one year is going to get me there.”

The future looks fast for South Whidbey.

Cole Zink, a freshman, had his third-best time of the season at 18:16.88. He finished seventh in the freshman boys race. Emma Lungren, the only freshman girl, set her personal record in the 5,000-meter race at 22:10.23.

“I thought they ran hard and they did good,” Fulton said. “They went out and tested themselves.”

South Whidbey will have 10 days of practice and rest until the conference championship at Lakewood High School on Saturday, Oct. 22.

The weekend before, South Whidbey competed against some of the state’s top cross country runners at Lakewood High School. The Falcon girls team finished 13th overall at the Hole in the Wall Invite. The boys team did not qualify for team points because it did not have enough varsity runners due to injury, illness and Fulton’s decision to put the underclassmen in a separate race for ninth- and 10th-grade students.

His most veteran racer in the varsity competition was addled by a foot injury. Will Zink hurt his foot in a non-running incident.

“I woke up and my arch went flat,” Zink said.

“It hurts right now just to put pressure on it. I ran Saturday thinking it wouldn’t be that bad and Sunday it came back and just wreaked havoc on me,” he said.

Zink finished in 18 minutes and 24.68 seconds, one of his better 5K times.

“It’s a fast course; it’s not my favorite one,” Zink said. “I think I could have knocked at least 10 seconds off my time.”

Despite being only a second slower than his season-best time, it was his teammate and brother Cole’s performance that irked him.

“It just kills me because Cole’s catching up and he’s doing really good,” Zink said. “Just think about it, if he’s a freshman now, what is he going to be running as a senior?”

Cole Zink had the second-best time for Falcon boys with 17:58.79. He finished in sixth place in the freshman and sophomore boys race.

Moeller had the best time for South Whidbey at 17:57.47.

Stelling, placed 36th in a field of more than 190. She competed against the state’s top two runners from Glacier Peak in Snohomish, who finished in first and second place. Stelling ran the course in 20 minutes and 19.87 seconds.

“That’s a solid run for her, but not her best,” Fulton said.

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