Runners feel pain of paradise

Mary Bakeman and Nancy Godsey suffer one of the big climbs at the Iolani Invitational Saturday in 85-degree weather. - Doug Fulton
Mary Bakeman and Nancy Godsey suffer one of the big climbs at the Iolani Invitational Saturday in 85-degree weather.
— image credit: Doug Fulton

There are certain parts of their trip to Hawaii members of the South Whidbey High School cross country team will remember more fondly than others.

Beaches, body surfing, shopping in the Honolulu international district and even one runner’s painful encounter with a jellyfish topped the list of fun stuff for the team, which returned from a four-day trip to the Pacific paradise.

As for the running — which happened Saturday at the Iolani Invitational meet at the Kualoa Ranch on Oahu — the memories are not so nice.

While hot, humid weather that pushed the mercury to over 85 degrees was perfect for a trip to the beach, it was not ideal when the Falcons took on about 20 of the best high school cross country teams from Washington, California and Hawaii at this, South Whidbey’s most far-flung race ever. Acclimated to the cooler, drier weather of Whidbey Island, the Falcons learned that paradise is better for funning than for running.

“It was, like, dead heat,” said sophomore runner Mary Bakeman, who was one of the top South Whidbey finishers in the 3.1-mile invitational race, taking 38th out of 149 girls Saturday.

Competing on what even seniors on the team characterized as the most difficult course of their careers, the Falcons managed something better than respectability under harsh conditions. The boys team was most successful, taking seventh place out of 21 teams, behind a champion Eisenhower High School team that finished its five scoring runners all in the top seven. Senior James Sundquist led his team, taking the heat as he earned 22nd place on a rocky course run in the volcanic foothills of Oahu’s volcano. Also adding to the team’s total of 232 points were JD Peters, Holton Schmitt, Chris dePender and Jeff Strong.

Though normally able to run that race distance in about 17 minutes, Sundquist said he was happy to settle for a time of 18:14 in the extreme tropical heat.

“Everyone ran as slowly as possible at the start of the race,” he said.

Senior Jessica Johnson, one of seven Falcon girls to run in the day’s 2-mile open race, saw firsthand the damage a fast start could do. She watched a girl collapse in front of her while running the course. Back on Whidbey Monday, she said she learned from the experience.

“Now we’ll be able to do anything,” she said.

Top finishers for the girls team in the 3.1-mile varsity race were senior Callie Supsinskas with a 34th-place 22:08 and Mary Bakeman, who was 38th in 22:30. Also scoring for the team were Nancy Godsey, Katy Gordon and Becky Gabelein. The Falcon girls finished 10th in the team standings, behind meet champion Sultana.

Though team members had to work car washes and other fundraisers throughout the summer to pay for their trip to Hawaii, their brief time in tropics seemed to be worth it. About half of the approximately 20 runners who took the trip had never been to Hawaii.

Freshman and junior varsity runner Casey Brasko said even those few days on Oahu was worth all the work.

“I thought it was amazing,” she said.

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