South Whidbey runners compete against the very best

Emily Martin begins her 5,000-meter run along the Carl Westling cross country trail Saturday. Martin finished in 20 minutes, 21.89 seconds — first for the South Whidbey girls team. - Jeff VanDerford / The Record
Emily Martin begins her 5,000-meter run along the Carl Westling cross country trail Saturday. Martin finished in 20 minutes, 21.89 seconds — first for the South Whidbey girls team.
— image credit: Jeff VanDerford / The Record

LANGLEY — It was a big day on so many levels, all of them wet.

The 26th South Whidbey Invite on Saturday brought together approximately 1,400 cross country runners from 34 schools —

13 of which were rated 4A — to Whidbey, including powerhouses Jesuit and Westview from Oregon. It was the biggest athletic event ever held at South Whidbey, said Falcon coach Doug Fulton.

Despite the gently falling drizzle, the day was bright with color and action as seven races in various divisions trod the 3.1-mile Carl Westling trail through the woods, around the high school track and across the finish line.

In the 5,000-meter varsity run, Falcon Blake Koszarek finished in ninth place with a time of 17 minutes, 56.52 seconds.

Dean Freundlich ran in 18:09.50; Scott Stallman had 18:24.13; Ben Saari finished with 19:32.71 and Jasper Tyler finished with 20:00.27.

Central Kitsap’s Shane Moskowitz was first overall with 15:44.

South Whidbey’s Emily Martin was 39th for the varsity girls team with 20:21.89, followed by Chantal White in 20:49.33, Cassie Bosman in 21:27.91; Caroline Habel in 21:30.66, Jessica Cary in 22:11.52 and Courtney Bosman with 22:56.91.

Gig Harbor’s Alyssa Andrews set a meet record of 18:05 for the girls, a full 15 seconds off the previous record set in 2006.

“This was a big challenge for our kids, running in a meet with 21 ranked Washington teams and schools rated in the

top 20 in the nation,” Fulton said.

“Emily had a big career PR running 20:21, as did both freshmen Marina Kovic and Jessica Cary,” he added. “As a team the girls didn’t do as well as we are capable, and this will motivate us as the season progresses. The boys were pretty solid despite a bit of illness and injury. Blake’s time was a big improvement over last year’s invitational.

“Overall, the meet was a big success and we got to see some tremendous performances, including Alyssa’s [Andrews] meet record and the Jesuit boys and girls, who were very impressive.”

Martin agreed the day was special.

“It was almost overwhelming with so many good running schools,” she said. “The rain was miserable at first, but everyone got used to it as the race went on.”

The toughest challenge for Martin was at the start, when all the runners file into a narrow gap.

“You have to stand your ground with all the jostling going on out there,” she recalled. “Be firm, but in a nice way. Last year I just wanted to break 21 minutes so I’m happy with the day.”

Koszarek felt he started out too fast.

“I was sitting in a good spot, I think it was third, until the second mile hill; that was hard,” he said. “This is my fourth year running and it’s become a passion for me because I’m good at it.”

Martin and Koszarek agreed that cross country is a special sport.

“You run by yourself, but you are part of a close-knit team,” Martin said.

“We’re Falcons, and I’m glad to be a part of all this,” Koszarik added.

In the 5,000-meter girls junior varsity Marina Kovic ran in 23:31.70, followed by Jennifer Gemkow, 23:59.00; McKenzie Walker, 24:00; Michela Mattens, 24:43.90; Natalie Wheeler, 25:07.60; AJ Janda, 26:46.60; and Liana Cave, 27:14.90.

In the 5,000-meter boys JV, Will Zink ran in 22:54.51 and Will Mellish in 23:03.12.

At 4 p.m. today, the Falcons compete against Archbishop Murphy and Cedarcrest at Lakewood.

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