Sunfair more than fair for runners

On Saturday, there might have been a few Skagit County runners feeling as though they were being chased by their shadows.

At the biggest, fastest cross country meet so far this season, the Sunfair Invitational, five South Whidbey High School girls were running to find out whether they could chase down a trip to the state 3A meet later this month. One of four teams that will battle it out for three to-state placings at an Oct. 30 district championship meet, the Falcon girls upped the speed in this early test of their strength.

While members of both the Falcon girls and boys cross country teams dashed to some of their best races of the year in Yakima, the girls made the biggest gains. Running individually in five separate heats and one open race, South Whidbey’s top six girls had the tightest finish of the year even though they were separated as they ran.

Both Falcon teams ran against more than 60 teams from all over Washington, most of which represented 4A schools. The South Whidbey girls made up one of just 12 3A teams at the meet; the boys were part of a 3A group of 17.

Clocking the best time for a South Whidbey girl was senior Nancy Godsey, who ran the open race at Yakima. Having been sat out of races to this point of the season, she scorched the 3-mile, hilly and, in parts, terraced course in 20 minutes, 24 seconds, a time that would have placed her inside the top 20 in the day’s third-fastest heat race. Additionally, her finish was 1:15 faster than in her Sunfair race in 2003.

Quickest official for the Falcons was sophomore Katy Gordon, a 20:31 10th place finisher in the day’s fourth-fastest heat. She had the biggest improvement on the day, racing 1:44 faster than she had in 2003.

In the third-fastest heat of the day, junior Mary Bakeman also made strides for the season. A 22nd-place finisher, she set a personal best time on the course, cutting 27 seconds on her way to a time of 20:40. But two races behind her, it was a South Whidbey freshman who delivered the surprise of the day. Erica Johnson made the most of her rookie Sunfair Invite, crossing the finish line in sixth place in the day’s No. 5 race. Had the Falcons been running as a group that day, her time of 20:37 would have put her about three strides in front of Bakeman and within sight of both Gordon and Godsey at the finish line.

Rounding out the scoring for the Falcons were junior Britta Madison and freshman Barbara Haupt. Madison’s run in the No. 6 race was her first of the season after sitting out the past few weeks due to an injury. She was the fifth-fastest Falcon, just behind Haupt’s 22:54, 32nd place finish in the day’s No. 7 race.

South Whidbey’s finishes placed them within 56 points of district rival Bellingham. Had Godsey been running in one of the scored races, South Whidbey would likely have been within just a handful of points at day’s end. As it was, they improved on 2003, scoring 186 points to last year’s 207 to take 25 place.

In a Washington cross country coaches poll, the Falcon girls are now ranked 10th in the state 3A bracket. However, as their district currently stands, the Falcons have yet to beat the acknowledged district leaders, Squalicum, Bellingham and Sehome.

Boys pick up the pace

As if feeding off each other’s runs in separate races, the Falcon boys were solid in an invitational that can take advantage of individual weaknesses.

There were none of those for the Falcons, as all five varsity runners finished within 90 seconds of one another. From a 18:59, 30th-place performance by sophomore Kurt Warwick in the day’s No. 7 race, to a blistering, 16:59, top-20 race by team leader JD Peters in the No. 3 race, the Falcons gutted out their best team performance of the season. Peters, who finished 27 seconds ahead of his pace at the 2003 Sunfair, was one of three Falcon boys who made big improvements at the Race. Junior Chris dePender was 11 seconds ahead of pace in the No. 5 race, while sophomore Jason Fitz gained 14 seconds on his freshman outing.

The boys were 30th as a team with 226 points, 19 off their 207 performance in 2003.

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