South Whidbey cross country teams save best for last at state meet

Jaime Rodden, a South Whidbey cross country senior, begins to pull ahead from a pack of racers at the state 1A meet Nov. 9 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.  - Matt Simms photo
Jaime Rodden, a South Whidbey cross country senior, begins to pull ahead from a pack of racers at the state 1A meet Nov. 9 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
— image credit: Matt Simms photo

Racing in their final 5,000-meter meet of the year, 10 South Whidbey cross country runners saved their best times for last.

At the state 1A cross country meet in Pasco on Saturday, South Whidbey’s girls team finished ninth overall and the boys placed 12th. It is the best finish in a decade for the Falcon cross country program.

“That’s just what you do at state, you rise up,” said Falcon head coach Doug Fulton. “You work hard all season.”

South Whidbey’s future looks bright too. Five of South Whidbey’s runners were freshmen.

Falcon freshman Anna Leski smashed her previous-best time and finished in 19:42.76, good for 14th place overall. Leski, who emerged as the Falcons’ top runner this season, was one of three freshman in the top 20 for the girls division.

Running in her first state-level meet, Leski found some extra spring in her legs as she narrowly edged Montesano sophomore Syndey Potter at the finish line. The state 1A meet was the first time she finished under 20 minutes, a benchmark for the Falcon girls this season, cutting her 5,000-meter time by 38 seconds.

“I really think it was just a lot more competitive,” Leski said of her race. “There were so many girls there, I was more encouraged to run faster so I could be in front of more girls.”

Mallorie Mitchem, a Falcon sophomore, hustled for a personal record finish of 20:19.12. Her time, 14 seconds faster than her previous best, put her in 30th place overall.

Falcon senior Jaime Rodden, after missing nearly three weeks of races, returned to form last week at the Westside Classic. She continued with a solid outing at the state meet, finishing in 21:14.31, her second-fastest time of the season and her short, single-season career.

Six of South Whidbey’s girls racers finished in the top 100. The final team-scoring runners were junior Emma Lungren and freshmen Kinsey Eager and Bethany Justus. Lungren finished in 77th place in 21:47.42. Eager set her personal record at 22:09.20, improving her time by 24 seconds and finishing 91st overall. Justus followed suit, setting her fastest time at 22:19.01 and taking 98th place.

“It’s a big deal to be a freshman and perform so well,” Fulton said.

Terra Wildon, a first-year cross country senior, crossed in 23:21.51.

South Whidbey’s boys suffered a bit of disappointment as one of their top runners, junior Cole Zink, finished well off his average time around 17:30. After battling a health issue during the summer and the start of the season, Zink fell ill before the race and was limited to a 20:11.0 finish.

The Falcon boys were boosted by six career-best times from their other racers. Gavin Imes, the team’s lone senior boy, cruised past his previous personal record and finished in 17:37.5. His time, though a serious improvement upon his other finishes, landed him at 63rd place overall in the highly-competitive 1A boys race.

Falcon sophomore Chris Andersen ran the finest race of his career with a time of 17:54.3, 81st overall. High-pressure races seem to be a catalyst for best times from Andersen, as his previous fastest race was the 2012 Westside Classic.

A pair of freshmen claimed the next two team spots for South Whidbey. Will Simms finished in 18:06.0, a personal record of 34 seconds, for a 97th-place finish. Cory Ackerman continued his late-season improvement for an 18:08.9 finish, good for 103rd place.

Anders Bergquist, a junior, blitzed to an 18:10.7 finish for 105th place. His time was 26 seconds faster than his previously-held best mark.

Evan Mellish also set a personal record at 18:19.2, nearly 33 seconds shaved from his prior best time.

“It’s all about offseason conditioning, getting out there in the wintertime when the days are short, wet and dark,” Fulton said. “And summertime training, working hard in track. That’s what podium teams commit to: training.”


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