There was nothing easy about coming home Saturday at Waterman Field.
That morning, Falcon cross country runners had to do their fastest racing of the season just to keep up with a tough batch of teams drawn to the annual South Whidbey Invitational.
Led by junior James Sundquist, the South Whidbey boys stayed as near to the front of the race as long as they could, while the Falcon girls, paced by junior Callie Supsinskas, managed the same fourth-place team finish the boys had.
Unlike past invitationals, South Whidbey was not one of the dominant teams going into the meet. The pre-meet favorite was Sehome, which almost swept every race with individual races and team tactics almost no one was able to crack. By the end of a morning and afternoon of racing, Sehome runners had won girls varsity and junior varsity races, the boys varsity race, and led their team to championships in every race except the boys varsity event. In that race, they placed second behind a tightly bunched Edmonds-Woodway squad.
Supsinskas, who ran the fastest race of her career on the 3.1-mile invitational course, said her 20-minute, 53-second, 17th place performance just kept her in sight of the Sehome leaders. She said she was fortunate to have a good day out on the grass and woodland trails of her home race course.
“I felt pretty good today,” she said. “Sehome had some really competitive runners.”
Behind her, other Falcons were also overachievers. Though all the girls went out too quickly in the estimation of South Whidbey coach Doug Fulton, they held a tight pack through much of the race. Senior Julie Gabelein was the second Falcon to finish, 12 seconds and one place behind Supsinkas. With her at the finish line was the girl who came up with the surprise run of the day, freshman Mary Bakeman. Just one second behind Gabelein at the line, Bakeman ran the best race of her short high school cross country career, a race Fulton said “shocked us all.”
Also running well and scoring for the Falcons were sophomores Becky Gabelein and Natalie Alexander. One Falcon varsity runner, Nancy Godsey, dropped out of the race due to a lingering illness.
In the boys race, it was the pursuit of several goals that paced Sundquist, who is leading the team this year in the absence of injured senior Brandon Bilyeu. Sundquist said he wanted to make a top-10 finish and run a time under 17 minutes. He almost made both as he finished 12th in 17 minutes flat in an all-out sprint for the finish line.
“I just saw the clock and went for it,” Sundquist said, who described his effort as “a good cruising race.”
Cruising in behind him — in spite of an overly fast first mile in which most of the Falcons ran under 5:30 — was sophomore Holton Schmitt in a personal best time of 17:43. Also scoring for the team were Conley White, Jasper Hein and JD Peters, all of whom finished with times under 19 minutes.
Fulton said the finish was solid even though the boys seemed to do everything they could to obliterate their legs in the early going.
“The boys got a little excited and went out very fast,” he said.
That early speediness even carried into the boys junior varsity race, in which freshman Chris dePender led the field for almost 1,200 meters. DePender still finished well despite his fast start and an ongoing bout with the flu, but gave up the team lead to senior Scott Perkins, who was the top Falcon JV finisher at 21st in the 169-runner field. Melissa Mydynski was the top girls JV runner, placing 35th overall.
The Falcons race next Saturday in a regional cross country meet at Stanford University.