South Whidbey sophomore Callahan Yale’s goal was simple coming into Thursday’s Cascade Conference Invitational at South Whidbey High School: Get better.
The first-year runner did just that and even finished ahead of his senior teammates along the way. Yale placed sixth at the Thursday’s Cascade Conference Invitational at South Whidbey High School. Yale’s time of 17:43.07 was a 36-second improvement from his 19th-place finish at the 38th Annual Carl Westling Invitational on Sept. 17. It was also his highest placing of the year.
“It was a ton of fun,” said Yale, who was hardly out of breath after running the 5,000-meter course. “I love coming out here at South Whidbey and just running with everyone and friends.”
The boys team tied for second with King’s at the meet after four Falcons placed in the top 25. Three Falcon girls placed in the top 20 and were led by senior Sophia Morgan, who transferred from Liberty High School in Renton.
Cedarcrest won both the girls and boys divisions.
Yale did not run cross country for the Falcons as a freshman, but competed in track and field. He barely missed out on qualifying for state in the 800-meter run and has utilized his long, lanky body to close the gap on his competitors. In the final stretch of the race, Yale outran King’s junior Cameron Chew to finish sixth. Yale finished second among the league’s Class 1A competitors.
Yale said he acted on the advice of his track and field teammates to run cross country and has not regretted the decision. Yale said that while things were tough at first, he’s settled into the season.
“I feel like I have a runner’s body, so it’s just kind of natural,” Yale said. “I really like running, so that helps a lot.”
Yale’s teammates also ran well. Placing in the top 25 were seniors Cory Ackerman (11th), Collin Burns (14th) and Will Simms (21st).
Freshman Flannery Friedman led for part of the girls race, though Morgan was eventually able to pass her. Morgan said she was racing with a focus on placing high rather than a specific time, as per instructions by head coach Doug Fulton. Morgan said she was thrown off by the top three Cedarcrest runners leading the race.
“Their first mile was really slow,” Morgan said. “I don’t know why they chose to race that way but it kind of threw me off.”
Morgan stuck to the plan and finished the course in 21 minutes and 25 seconds. She said her goal is to eventually break the 20-minute threshold. Her best time this year came on Oct. 1 when she ran the 5,000-meter course at the 10th Annual Twilight XC Invitational in 20 minutes and 44 seconds.
“I still have a month until state, so I have a lot of time to improve,” Morgan said. “If I can improve another minute, I will be a lot faster than last year.”
Fulton said the goal for the meet was pacing and that he was pleased with Yale and Morgan’s performances.
Junior Elizabeth Donnelly, who placed 13th overall, said conditions were good for the race despite some rain and that the course was not muddy. She said it also helped that the meet was smaller than the Carl Westling Invitational, which brought around 30 teams to South Whidbey’s course. She’s hopeful that she can place high when the Falcons compete in the postseason league meet on Oct. 20.
“I think it’s going to be tough this year,” Donnelly said. “Cedarcrest is so good and they have such a solid team. I’m not sure if first-team will happen for me, but I’m still going to go out and go for it.”
Yale is also hopeful that he and his teammates will have a strong postseason showing and that they make it to state.
“It looks like we have a pretty good chance of doing that,” Yale said.
The Falcons will host the 1B/2B, 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A Northwest District Championships on Oct. 29.
The top five girls teams and top 35 individuals advance to state; the top four boys teams and top 28 individuals will also move on to state.