Falcons challenge the best at Sunfair in Yakima

Falcon Jessica Cary, right, races toward the finish in Saturday’s Sunfair cross country run in Yakima. - Brian Kelly / The Record
Falcon Jessica Cary, right, races toward the finish in Saturday’s Sunfair cross country run in Yakima.
— image credit: Brian Kelly / The Record

On a blustery day at Franklin Park’s cross country course in Yakima, South Whidbey runners competed against more than 2,600 athletes from 87 teams in 15 races.

Falcon Blake Koszarek ran the 3-mile course in 18 minutes, 00.40 seconds and Emily Martin was tops for the girls at 20:53.55.

The crowd that came to watch Sunfair was huge, said Falcon coach Doug Fulton, lining parts of the course three and four deep, and filling the bleachers to overflowing while cheering on their teams on the spectator-friendly course.

Fulton said the normally dry area east of the mountains saw rainfall until noon, causing slow times from soggy running conditions.

“The course is noted for its hilly character,” Fulton said. “It runs more like a

5 kilometer [3.1-miles] than a 3-miler.” Fulton said his teams like to compete at Sunfair, a 35-year tradition that attracted top athletes from as far away as Hilo, Hawaii and Bozeman, Mont.

“Most of the top 2A schools show up, and we always want to see how we stack up to them,” he said.

Major 2A cross country schools included Cedarcrest, Bellingham, Sehome, Wapato, Selah, Tumwater and Ellensburg. Freshman runner Jessica Cary said the experience was nerve-wracking, but positive.

“It was crazy with all those other athletes; some of them are really fast over distance,” she said. “But it helps us strive to do better.”

Cary noted there’s a world of difference between middle school and being a Falcon cross country runner.

“We have to train much harder and the meets are more intense and serious,” she said. “But the girls are like a little family, especially when we travel; everyone offers lots of support and encouragement.”

With so many athletes on hand, races are run according to grade levels, not gender.

Gig Harbor was again the top team in attendance, winning the combined team trophy for the third year in a row while scoring first in both the boys and girls team competitions.

Mead’s Baylee Mires won the competitive Girls’ Varsity Flight 7, clocking in at 17.59.5 in a race that saw 10 girls come in under 19 minutes on the wet and slippery course.

Andrew Gonzales of Southridge was the top boy on the day coming in at 15:23.9 in the Boys Varsity Flight 7 race.

Both Mires and Gonzales won their races by wide margins, beating out their nearest competitors by 12.0 and 8.3 seconds respectively.

For South Whidbey, in the 2-mile freshman flight Will Mellish ran 13:48.42 and Will Zink in 13:49.88, Michael Cavender in 14:01.54, Taya Jae finished in 13:53.47 and Marina Kovic in 14:22.28. In the 3-mile sophomore flight, AJ Janda ran in 27:26.94. Junior varsity runners McKenzie Walker ran in 23:34.37 and Jennifer Gemkow finished with 24:39.94.

For flight 1 in varsity, Jasper Boekelman finished in 20:08.74 and Cary, 21:36.54.

In flight 2, Ben Saari ran in 18:32.83 and Courtney Bosman in 22:37.31.

In flight 3 Dean Freundlich finished in 18:25.59 and Chantal White in 21:44.07.

In flight 4, Scott Stallman ran in 18:54.21 and Caroline Habel ran the course in 20:55.94.

Fulton noted that Cary placed seventh, her best run of the year and third fastest on the team.

“Jessica has improved remarkably over the course of the last four weeks,” he said.

“Taya Jae had a great race to finish fifth. The girls as a team struggled, and we hope to work out the kinks and be able to run to our potential as we roll into the championship part of the season which begins in two weeks.”

On Thursday, Oct. 9 the team travels to Lakewood for a Cascade Conference meet.

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