Wet runners earn state trip

Pictured running at the NCC meet Oct. 19, freshman Nancy Godsey came back to the course Friday to place 10th in the region meet and help carry the Falcons into a state meet berth. - Matt Johnson
Pictured running at the NCC meet Oct. 19, freshman Nancy Godsey came back to the course Friday to place 10th in the region meet and help carry the Falcons into a state meet berth.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

Proving that nothing - not even the loss to graduation of four of the best runners in the school’s history - can slow them down, South Whidbey runners made their reservations Friday for a trip to the state boys and girls cross country meets.

While they did not have the overwhelming force they did last year when the boys were led by the Killer Bs trio and the girls by Lisa Depender, the runners on both teams ran faster, gutsier races at Friday’s Northwest District meet than they did on the same course a week earlier. Their combined performances gave the girls a runner-up placing in the team competition, while the boys were third behind Lakewood and Mount Baker.

Slogging over muddy trails in a steady downpour, the girls had a meet of the season. Senior Karen Schwager led the way by running 43 seconds faster and finishing two places higher than she had the week before on the 5-kilometer Skagit Valley College course. Close behind, junior Julie Gabelein was also faster, finishing her race in 18:37.

Freshman power kept the gaps in the Falcon pack small. Chewing up the mud and shrugging off the icy rain, frosh Nancy Godsey made a huge, 48-second time cut to run third for the Falcons. A few steps behind her the whole way was Callie Supsinskas, who picked off runners mile after mile as she pursued her teammate.

But the courage award for the day went to freshman Becky Gabelein. For the second week in a row, the rookie runner suffered an asthma attack a half-mile into the race. Though she was barely able to breathe, she hung with Godsey and Supsinskas to place 14th — a finish her team needed to qualify for its 13th-straight state appearance.

If Gabelein can get a better asthma prescription by Saturday, Coach Doug Fulton said, his team could be one of the best at state.

“The girls have a good shot at a top-four finish next week,” he said.

In the boys race, there were few great moments — only a steady push to earn one of the three state-qualifying spots. Heading the effort was the team’s star-du-jour, sophomore James Sundquist. After berating himself the week before for not running fast enough, Sundquist reeled in 24 spare seconds and nine finishing places to take third place behind race winner Tyler Mitchell of Mount Baker.

Behind him, senior Joe Candelario also cut a few seconds — in spite of his water-logged shoes — to take lucky number 13. Also scoring for the boys were Drew Aernie (16th), Jeff Strong (22nd), and a surprisingly-fast Holton Schmitt, who was 28 seconds faster the second time around in Mount Vernon. Schmitt placed 25th overall in the race. Regular varsity scorers Nathan Chambers and Brandon Bilyeu struggled in the race and finished farther back in the pack.

The Falcons’ coach said all the runners need to be on when they travel to Pasco Saturday if they want to earn one of the top team placings.

“If this team can put it all together on the same day, they have a chance at a top-eight finish,” Fulton said.

At Saturday’s race in Pasco, the Falcon girls race at 10:30 a.m. and the boys at 12:30 p.m.

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