South Whidbey High School was once again represented by a team at a state competition. It had been more than a few years, but the Falcon girls cross country team qualified for the state 1A championship.
Veteran runners carried South Whidbey much of the season. And where the boys team lacked seniors (save one) the Falcon girls were flush with five. Lillianna Stelling continued her run as the team’s leader.
The other Falcon seniors were close behind. Nora Felt emerged as a dependable second finisher, with Bonnie Klamm vying for third place until a foot injury knocked her out of the state meet. With Klamm out, Anna Hood jumped at the end of the season as the Falcons’ final scorer (the first five finishers’ points are counted toward the team score). Finally, Kelsey Hardaway spent most of the meets as a junior varsity racer, but traveled with the team as its alternate, warmed up with the other runners then became one of their loudest supporters — she brought a megaphone to the state meet in Pasco.
Here are their reflections on their 1A ninth-place finish, careers and each other.
What was the most difficult aspect of cross country?
Nora Felt: The mental aspect. No one is making you run or depending on you. In the trails, it is just you and your thoughts.
Lillianna Stelling: The most difficult aspect was probably getting up for morning practices in the summer.
Kelsey Hardaway: For me, it was the mental aspect. Cross country is just as mentally taxing as it is physical. You have to try to forget any pain and push through feeling tired. It’s something that’s difficult for me.
Bonnie Klamm: For me, the competition is the hardest part of cross country. As an individual sport, you focus more on your times instead of a team score. It can be hard not to compare times — especially when workouts are categorized by speed or time. This year we’ve had an especially good varsity team, which means competition is tough. But I love these girls and try to give them as much support as I possibly can.
Anna Hood: Breaking bad habits! I had to ration my sugar intake and get to bed early enough to have eight hours of sleep.
What did you enjoy about running 5,000 meters through rain, wind, mud and bugs?
Felt: The feeling of accomplishment. After you’re done, you look like you’ve just been through a battle, and we have in a sense.
Stelling: I enjoyed embracing the mud at Seaside (Three Course Challenge) and the mud and crazy rain at district. When the weather got bad, I just convinced myself I loved it, when in reality I’m not a fan of running while it’s raining cats and dogs. Throughout my years of cross country,
I have to admit I have accidentally swallowed a few flies.
Hardaway: As strange as it may sound, it’s fun. Afterwards I always feel a sense of accomplishment.
Klamm: Running always gives me such a thrill. When you tack on rain, wind, mud and bugs it just becomes even more memorable. These elements give me an underlying feeling that
I accomplished something — something tough.
Hood: People can’t judge us for being dirty. They don’t have to know we like mud puddles!
Why were there so many senior girls this season?
Felt: We started our freshman year and fell in love with the sport and each other. We stuck together and made every season memorable.
Stelling: There were so many senior girls this season because we’ve been such good friends in this sport since seventh grade. We have a certain bond that formed from the sweat and tears shed throughout our years in cross country together.
Hardaway: Four of us have been here since seventh grade and one since sophomore year. We all just love the sport and the people involved in cross country.
Klamm: I know the other senior girls have been running since middle school. I missed out on this, and ended up joining my sophomore year. Just as I fell in love with the sport, I believe they did, too. I guess other kids just don’t know what they’re missing out on.
Hood: We were a tight group starting in middle school. I guess we were all lucky to end up in the same grade so we could go through all these years together. I remember being in preschool with Bonnie and my daddy ran at North Idaho College, the same as Kelsey’s dad. Lilli and Nora have been friends since preschool, too, and again we were all pretty close at a young age. It was destiny! We were all meant for each other.
Which was your favorite course and why?
Felt: Cedarcrest Golf Course … PRs (personal records), PRs, PRs!
Stelling: My favorite course was the Twilight Invitational because I had my career PR there of 19:13. Also the fun run in the dark was a ton of fun. We dressed up in crazy clothes and pinned glow sticks all over us.
Hardaway: I’ve always liked the Twilight course. I’ve always had my best runs there.
Klamm: My favorite course this year was the first course we ran of the season at Lakewood. It was only a 3K (3,000 meters) race, but
I felt strong, had no injuries and knew the course well.
Hood: I like all the big invite races mostly because of all the view points for other races and exciting obstacles like mud pits at Seaside and, of course, the Wall at Hole-in-the-Wall at Lakewood. The terraces at Sunfair in Yakima are a big attraction. Over all, my best times have been at the Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville where the Twilight Invite was this year.
Who was your preferred running partner?
Felt: My first three years of cross country, it was Jessica Cary, and I was so sad to see her leave last year. But this year the cutest little freshman, Mallorie Mitchem, was my pace and we really got along on and off the trails.
Stelling: My preferred running partner would have to be Bonnie. She works so hard and we’ve run many workouts together.
Hardaway: I didn’t really have a running partner, I was usually by myself when it came to the team. I was kind of in a … gap.
Klamm: I really enjoy running with Lillianna Stelling. She’s a hard worker, and a good leader. I have enjoyed running with her this summer, and have tried to keep up with her during the season. She’s as much a running partner as a runner I admire.
Hood: Emma Lungren, always! She’s one place in front of me on our team and we’d always be close to each other at the beginning of the races. I would talk to her, more like grunt at her, to keep going or kick it up a notch. She helped me a lot because I always tried to keep her in my sight and she was the craziest little kid to train with!
Finish this sentence: When I run, I think about …
Felt: food and floating on a cloud.
Stelling: food … most of the time. During races I think about food mainly because I don’t eat for four hours before so
I don’t get a side ache. Other times I think about something easy like fishing; sometimes I pretend I’m fishing on a cloud and am as light as a feather.
Hardaway: nature. Definitely nature. The whole time I’m like, “Oh that’s pretty, look at that!”
Klamm: goals while I’m running. During the offseason I’m training for half marathons or fun 5Ks. During cross-country or track, it’s about pushing myself and trying to do the best I can. But if I’m just out for a fun run, my mind is only filled with happy thoughts.
Hood: being a machine. Machines don’t feel pain so that helped me stay efficient and focused during a race. During practice it was usually whatever happened to pop into my head.