Sports

At state, 2004 cross country girls set third-fastest pace for Falcons ever

South Whidbey cross country runners Jane Sinclair, Barbara Haupt, Britta Madison, Mary Bakeman, Nancy Godsey, Katy Gordon and Erica Johnson pose for posterity with coaches Mark Cook, Doug Fulton, Kristie Eager and Dean Hatt after taking fifth place at Saturday’s state 3A meet in Pasco. - Submitted photo
South Whidbey cross country runners Jane Sinclair, Barbara Haupt, Britta Madison, Mary Bakeman, Nancy Godsey, Katy Gordon and Erica Johnson pose for posterity with coaches Mark Cook, Doug Fulton, Kristie Eager and Dean Hatt after taking fifth place at Saturday’s state 3A meet in Pasco.
— image credit: Submitted photo

It’s a story almost no one — not even those in the midst of it — would have believed two months ago.

On Saturday, seven girls raced to a fifth place in the state 3A cross country meet in Pasco. Along the way, they ran the third-fastest state race ever by a South Whidbey team as six of seven Falcon girls ran either their best state or best-ever races.

To place the race in perspective, the day’s accomplishments came from a group of girls that wasn’t even expected to be at the state meet this season. After having placed third in the 2A state meet in 2003, the Falcons moved up this fall to the tougher, faster 3A division. Unranked coming into the season with two of its top runners out for the first three weeks of competition and with a hole left in the top five left by the graduation of former team leader Callie Supsinskas, the team ran its early meets at almost a ponderous pace. Most, if not all of the Falcons five scoring runners were finishing the 3.1-mile high school races somewhere between 21 and 25 minutes.

At Pasco, it was almost impossible to see any resemblance between the South Whidbey team that took to the trails and fields in September and the one running Saturday. Racing at an average pace of 20 minutes, 13 seconds on the rolling fairways of Sun Willows Golf Course, the Falcons were not only fast enough to make top five in their division, but would have easily taken the state 2A championship had they competed in that race.

Nancy Godsey, the team’s only senior and the No. 2 runner on the course for the Falcons Saturday, said she could not have imagined a better race.

“I think that we ran amazing,” she said.

While Godsey, the team’s leader through much of the season, set a personal best time of 19:56 in the race, the run of the day belonged to junior Mary Bakeman. In her third state run on a course that has yielded mixed results for her at best in the past, Bakeman had a breakthrough run, cutting 37 seconds off the time she ran the Saturday before to finish 20th overall in 19:41.

After weathering a season that saw her running far slower than the pace she set as a freshman and sophomore, Bakeman said the right run showed up in her legs at the right time.

“I peaked right at that point,” she said.

Behind Bakeman and Godsey, the remainder of the Falcon team stayed close throughout. After hanging together for a 6:10 first mile to open the race, the other five South Whidbey runners picked their way up through the order. Sophomore Katy Gordon was her team’s third scoring runner, using up every last bit of energy on the final hill climb of the day before a downhill sprint. Focused on the finish line as she ran for a 20:13 34th place, Gordon stayed just one second ahead of teammate Erica Johnson, who reeled in a few dozen yards in her finish sprint. A freshman in her first state meet, Johnson came up on Gordon so fast that she had to put her hands on Gordon’s shoulders as she crossed the finish line to avoid running her down.

“I usually have a kick no matter how fast I go,” she said.

Another big gainer on the day was freshman Jane Sinclair. In only her third race as a scorer for the team, the freshman was 27 seconds faster at the line than in any previous run this season. Her finish placing at 75th also helped secure a 34 point victory over district rival Sehome, which beat the Falcons by 5 points the previous Saturday at South Whidbey High School.

Also having career days were freshman Barbara Haupt and junior Britta Madison. Both ran personal best times on the state course, as they stayed within about a minute of Sinclair.

Falcon coach Doug Fulton said the race was the best any of his teams have had in the eight years he has been with the program.

“It’s not often you have everyone in sync,” he said.

By comparison, the fastest Falcon team ever was the 1995 state runner-up squad of Megan Maynard, Leann Hymas, Joey Shapiro, Krista Grimm and Kristin Hoelting. That team had an average 3.1-mile time of 19:35.

The last time the Falcons ran in the 3A division at Pasco, 1998, the team placed 14th overall.

Peters finishes 56th

The lone South Whidbey runner on the boys side at Pasco was junior JD Peters. In the cool, dry weather of Pasco, he lopped six seconds off his district meet time from the week before and off his previous best at the state meet to take 56th overall in 16:50.

The run is Peters’ third at the state meet. He qualified as an individual by placing in the top 10 at the District 1 3A meet on Oct. 30.

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