There’s newfound excitement with the Langley Middle School cross country program.
As there should be.
The Cougars boys and girls teams capped a successful season by winning team titles at the Cascade Conference Championships on Oct. 16 at Lakewood High School.
Langley’s success came on the heels of offseason advertising by the program to spread the word about the often over-looked sport.
The Cougars numbers doubled, as did their enthusiasm.
“We talked it up more about team camaraderie, just doing your best,” said head cross country coach Patty Maddux. “It doesn’t matter what your time is, it doesn’t matter if you’re at the front of the pack or the back, just come out and have fun. I think it must have worked, because here they are. And now they have the same goal to do — bring it back next year.”
Langley’s girls team finished with 29 points, while runner-up Lakewood had 63, followed by third-place King’s with 68 points. The Cougars also dominated the top-five, with three Langley runners placing second, third, and fourth place.
Seventh-grader Kaia Swegler-Richmond was the top girls finisher, placing second with a time of 10 minutes and 58 seconds on the 1.7-mile course.
The 11-year-old Swegler-Richmond has had a successful season running for the Cougars. According to Athletic.net, she broke three out of the four cross country records which date back to 2010. Her performance on Oct. 16 was no exception, as she finished just seven seconds behind the overall front-runner, Granite Falls eighth-grader Grace Rinaldi.
“It was really hard because I wanted to pass the top runner,” Swegler-Richmond said. “I was really happy to be up there.”
“I like to be on top and I’m naturally good at running too, so it’s fun. I love running,” she added.
Langley eighth-grader Flannery Friedman finished third after running the course in 11 minutes and 24 seconds, while seventh-grader Kailey Ziss placed fourth with a time of 11 minutes and 48 seconds.
Finishing in the top-20 were Langley’s Serena Muniz, Laila Gmerek, Melody Wilkie, and Natalie Rodriguez.
“The girls dominated the whole season. They pretty much came in first place every race,” Maddux said. “They showed maturity at the start of the race and picked their moments to move ahead. Every girl made their movements forward and it showed in the results.”
The boys team race was far more contested, with Langley coming out ahead with 43 points while Lakewood finished close behind with 47. King’s finished third with 64 points.
Langley had been flipflopping with Lakewood in the team standings all season. Lakewood had beaten Langley by 10 points at the Hole in the Wall meet a week prior to the conference championships. But it was the Cougars who performed when it mattered the most. Maddux said Lakewood often started strong and fast, while Langley runners typically settled into the race in the back and then worked their way through the ranks. The strategy worked.
“They just find their stride, pick their pace, and just start, one-by-one, picking off the competitors,” Maddux said. “Rather than getting caught up in that momentum of the start and over-start their race, these athletes have shown such maturity to be able to reserve themselves and know when to pick their moment in the race.”
“For middle schoolers, that’s amazing,” she added.
The top Langley boys finisher was eighth-grader Michael Cepowski, who ran the course in 10 minutes and 40 seconds for fourth place. Finishing just behind Cepowski in fifth was seventh-grader Thomas Simms with a time of 10 minutes and 41 seconds.
“I thought we weren’t going to win it,” Simms said. “Because when I came off and got a drink of water, it just went Lakewood, Lakewood, Lakewood. I just thought they had a better chance. But I guess I didn’t hear all the Langley people.”
Eighth-grader Andrew Curtis finished ninth after a 10 minute, 49-second performance, while Cougars Riley McVay, Aidan O’Brien, and Ethan Petty rounded out the top-20.
Maddux said the Cougars’ success was a result of their work ethic, determination, and support for one another.
“Hard work, practice everyday, showing up doing what you’re asked and putting one foot in front of the other and supporting the fellow teammates whether they cross the finish line first or last,” Maddux said. “The whole team supported each other in that movement forward, so that’s how I think we did it.”