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Falcons blast at home
There is a trail in the South Whidbey Community Park that has no official name, yet has a reputation known to high school runners all over the state.
It is a narrow dirt rut that winds its way through trees for about a 100 yards and, from a runners perspective, it is straight up.
On Saturday, the trail known as the hill was the make or break point for several hundred cross country runners competing in the 3.1-mile South Whidbey Invitational. For one Falcon girl in particular, the hill was the make of her race, while for one Falcon boy, it was almost the break.
Two days after both the Falcon boys and girls were jumped by the competition at a conference triangular in Granite Falls, the two squads went into Saturdays invite ready to give the race everything they had. A preview of the Northwest District 3A meet to be held on the same course at South Whidbey High School, the race was a test to determine how the Falcons would keep up with district powerhouses Squalicum, Sehome, Sedro-Woolley and Kings.
For the girls who placed two spots better than the Falcon boys at eighth overall among the 20 teams at the meet sophomore Katy Gordon set the example. Running at the head of the race for the second meet in a row, Gordon just held onto a lead group of 13 girls before placing 12th in a sprint finish on the Waterman Field track. She said her climb on the hill, which was about a mile into the race, put distance between her lead group and 112 other runners.
It was probably the best part of my race, Gordon said of her 20 minute, 27 second finish time, which is her best ever.
Gordon finished 30 seconds behind race winner Lisa Anderberg of Kamiak.
Gapped by over 20 seconds, junior Mary Bakeman helped keep her team in the top 10, placing 15th on a run that showed improvement over her race two days earlier in Granite Falls. Behind her, two Falcon freshmen Erica Johnson and Barbara Haupt placed mid field by taking 42nd and 65th. Junior Melissa Mydynski was the final South Whidbey placer, crossing the line in 24:05 for 82nd place.
While as a team the Falcon girls were well off their finish in 2003 when they placed third with a team time average of 21:21 their coach, Doug Fulton, said he was pleased with their 22:08 average this year, which came without one of the teams top runners, senior Nancy Godsey. Godsey sat out the race, but is expected to return to competition within the next week.
Boys turn it on
After getting caught behind Lakewood last Thursday in a rare conference meet loss, the Falcon boys brought their performances up several notches at Saturdays invitational.
The last of five races to start, the boys varsity event started in a sprinkle of rain and finished in a soaking torrent. On footpaths 500 other high school and fun run runners had already torn into a mud slick, South Whidbey team leader JD Peters made an unusual and gutsy move by leading out the race and holding the lead position for over a mile.
Peters said he was motivated to lead the five-man Falcon squad to a better performance than earlier in the week. But unlike Katy Gordon in the girls race, Peters did not have the reserve energy to survive the hill. He lost his momentum, his footing and his lead, then spent the second half of the race hanging onto the lead pack. He went on to finish 20th with a time of 17:15, six seconds and nine places better than in 2003.
That hill was where I lost a lot, Peters said after his race.
Behind him, the remainder of the team bunched well to secure 10th place in the meet. After running the first mile of the race more conservatively than Peters, senior Holton Schmitt showed true grit in the closing moments of his race, sprinting past a number of competitors in the final 500 meters to place 49th. Junior Chris dePender was next for South Whidbey, taking 55th in 18:10, even though he faded a bit after a 5:10 opening mile.
In fourth position for the Falcons was sophomore Jason Fitz, who bettered his 2003 time by 23 seconds to place 57th. Sophomore Kurt Warwick was the No. 5 scorer for the team in 80th place at 18:44.
With either two or three state team slots open in the Northwest 3A district, both the boys and girls cross country teams from South Whidbey are on the cusp of elimination. However, coach Doug Fulton said his runners can expect their running to improve as the season goes on.