Karen Swegler photo — South Whidbey freshman runner Kaia Swegler Richmond beat Bothell’s Monseratt Lopez to the finish line during the Sehome Invitational on Sept. 9.

Freshman shows poise during cross country’s Sehome Invitational

Despite only being a freshman, Kaia Swegler Richmond showed some veteran-like instincts at South Whidbey’s most recent cross country meet.

While running in the freshmen heat during a rainy Sehome Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 9, Swegler Richmond purposely reserved her energy by hanging in the back of the pack of leader runners. In the final stretch, she exhibited a strong will by beating out Bothell’s Monseratt Lopez in a sprint for first place.

Swegler Richmond was the top freshman girls runner, while her time of 12 minutes and 27 was eighth-best overall.

“I had to out-sprint her at the end,” Swegler Richmond said. “I just decided I wanted it more than her.”

Fulton said the Sehome Invitational is one of the few races that splits up runners based on age. He added that it helped the Falcons race more competitively and was especially helpful for the younger runners.

Times were faster across the board than what was expected by Fulton and assistant coach Shauna Davies entering the meet. Fulton specifically referenced junior Callahan Yale’s team-leading and personal best time of 10 minutes and 33 seconds, as well as Swegler Richmond and junior Alexandra Kurtz, as having performed above expectations. Fulton believes Swegler Richmond has a strong chance of qualifying for state during the postseason.

The competition Yale faced in his heat may have been a contributing factor to his strong time, as the juniors turned out to be faster than the seniors.

“I definitely expected more from myself because I was running against guys my own age,” Yale said.

Yale, who qualified for the 2016 class 1A state cross country, was 12th fastest among juniors and 19th overall. Nearly all of the runners ahead of him were from class 3A and 4A schools.

“I was happy with it,” Yale said.

Kurtz, who is competing in cross country for the first time after spending the previous two years on the Falcon track team, finished 22nd among the junior girls with a time of 13 minutes and 53 seconds.

Other Falcons who finished in the top 20 in their respective heats were freshman Thomas Simms (19th) and sophomore Michael Cepowski (19th).

It was the first race Swegler Richmond has won as a Falcon. She’ll experience another first when she and the rest of the Falcons compete in the Carl Westling Invitational today at South Whidbey High School, which draws around 30 teams annually.

“I’ve really enjoyed watching it, and I’ve always really wanted to compete in it,” Swegler Richmond said. “I’m really excited.”