Falcon runners race with the best -- and themselves, at state

The South Whidbey girl
The South Whidbey girl's cross country runner, No. 3558 at center crowd during the start of the district meet last Saturday, will attempt to qualify for state finals today in Pasco.
— image credit: Jim Thompson

Today, four Falcon cross country runners -- Mary Bakeman, Katy Gordon, Erica Johnson and JD Peters -- compete in the state finals in Pasco.

"They've prepared all season for this moment," said Mike Johnson, Erica's father and the principal at South Whidbey High. "And they've run a lot of miles this year so I think the plan is to back off a bit to make sure they're fresh."

The weather

There's a 70 percent chance of rain this morning east of the Cascades with highs from 49 to 54 and a southwest wind 10 to 20 mph, gusting up to around 30 mph in the morning.

"Running weather," Coach Doug Fulton said.

Historical perspective

This will be the first time in 16 years the girl's cross country team hasn't qualified, but Bakeman, Gordon and Johnson are determined to represent their school to the best of their ability.

As with many sports in Washington, the state finals for cross country was born out of an invitational meet. The first boys meet was held in 1959 at Seattle's Green Lake park and the race covered a distance of two miles. In 1963, the meet organizers upped the course length to 2.3 miles, and the final invitational was run at three miles.

The Washington Interscholastic Athletic Association sanctioned the first state meet in 1969, which was hosted by Seattle's Evergreen High School until 1982. The course length, though, was changed over the years. It was dropped to 2.5 miles from 1969 to 1977, then raised back up to 3.0 miles in 1978.

While the boys were enjoying their state meet, organizers put together a girls invitational for the 1973 season. The 1.5 mile meet was run in Granger in '73 and '74, before WIAA sanctioned the first state meet -- a 2.0 mile race --  at Lake Sammamish Park in 1975.

The girls joined the boys at Evergreen in 1976, running at 2.0 miles in the late 1970s before joining the boys at 3.0 miles in 1980.

From 1980 on, the boys and girls events were at identical locations and course lengths. The meet moved east of the mountains in 1983 to Spokane's Hangman Valley and resided there for three seasons. It made a brief journey to the Olympic Peninsula in 1986 and 1987, when it was run at Port Townsend's Fort Worden Park. In 1988 the meet took up residence at Pasco's Sun Willows Golf Course, where it continues to uphold its early November tradition.

The only change in the meet since that move was the transition from 3.0 miles to 5k in length in 1997.

Send sports info, tips and news to Jeff VanDerford at 221-5300 or e-mail

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