Sports

Championship rundown

Following team and race leader James Sundquist (far right), South Whidbey sophomore JD Peters splashes through a muddy, wetland trail at Lakewood High School Saturday on his way to placing third in the North Cascades Conference championship. - Matt Johnson
Following team and race leader James Sundquist (far right), South Whidbey sophomore JD Peters splashes through a muddy, wetland trail at Lakewood High School Saturday on his way to placing third in the North Cascades Conference championship.
— image credit: Matt Johnson

On Saturday afternoon, James Sundquist ran alone, well out of earshot of the footfalls behind him.

Sundquist, a senior runner for the South Whidbey High School boys cross country team, was on his way to winning the North Cascades Conference championship meet. In the most dominant race by a Falcon boy since 2001, Sundquist dashed away from his closest rival, Neil Hollo of Granite Falls, to win the 3.1-mile race at Lakewood High School by 24 seconds. That was enough for him to be out of the sight of every other runner on the course as he lifted his arms in a victory salute as he crossed the finish line — a rare feat on the short race courses of high school cross country.

“I blame the whole thing on my coach, my teammates and summer training,” said a joyful Sundquist as he waited at the finish line to shake hands with every one of the other 107 race finishers.

His victory was the high point of a nearly perfect performance by the boys as they won the meet, outpointing runner-up Meridian 31-66. In winning, the Falcons placed four scoring runners — Sundquist, sophomore JD Peters, junior Holton Schmitt and sophomore Chris dePender — in the top 10. The finish was a one-point improvement over the team’s 2002 victory.

Unfortunately, South Whidbey was not able to claim a double victory at the meet as it did last year. Badly gapped by Mount Baker’s two best runners, the Falcon girls were not able to come up with the placings they needed to win, settling for second place 14 points behind the champion Mountaineers.

Still, there was nothing to be disappointed about as many South Whidbey runners made improvements over the NCC races last year despite running the a more difficult — and occasional treacherous — Lakewood course. On the boys side, each of the Falcon top four improved on their times from last year’s NCC meet. Though not as quick as last year, the team’s fifth scoring runner, senior Jeff Strong, worked his way back into the top five after an inconsistent season.

Strong said he stayed at the front of the race by keeping teammate Holton Schmitt in sight.

“I didn’t know I could keep up with him,” Strong said after finishing 46 seconds behind his teammate.

The performances were additionally impressive for the fact that the race was run over a wide range of topography, including a 50-yard dash along a swampy, flooded trail.

Mud puddles aside, the racing in general was not so quick for the girls team, as four of the squad’s top five runners turned in slower times than at last year’s NCC meet. Sophomore Mary Bakeman, who led the Falcons with a fourth-place finish, admitted to not being mentally prepared for the meet. She said South Whidbey homecoming festivities — including Saturday night’s homecoming dance — were a distraction.

“I just wanted to stay in the top five at the start,” she said.

Bakeman said she wasn’t surprised to see Mount Baker push the pace from the beginning.

“They always do that.”

Still, the girls stayed close to the front. Behind Bakeman, senior Callie Supsinskas came in seventh, junior Nancy Godsey ninth, freshman Katy Gordon 14th and junior Becky Gabelein 19th. Pushing the top five was Melissa Mydynski, who finished two places and nine seconds behind Gabelein, and sophomore Britta Madison in 31st place.

The good news for both the boys and girls is that last Saturday’s meet was primarily for show. This Saturday, the NCC teams will meet again at the Northwest District 2A meet in Centralia. The top two teams in the boys and girls divisions will move on to the state meet.

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