Conserving oxygen comes second when South Whidbey cross country runners Mallorie Mitchem and Elizabeth Donnelly are on the course together.
Whatever oxygen was available to Mitchem and Donnelly while racing at the Cascade Conference Cross Country Championships at Lakewood High School on Oct. 24, it was spent pushing one another.
“It was more like she would come up behind me and yell at me and then I would come up behind her and yell at her… in an encouraging way,” Mitchem said.
“It just sounds bad because you really can’t breathe,” she added.
Mitchem, a senior, placed sixth overall with a time of 20:49 seconds on the 5,000-meter course, while sophomore Donnelly finished three seconds behind her teammate for seventh place.
Both earned first-team all-conference honors, while also recording season-best times.
“We kind of went back and forth the entire race, so that was good,” Donnelly said.
Mitchem and Donnelly led a Falcon girls team which placed third overall behind Cedarcrest and Lakewood.
Sophomore Annika Hustad placed 26th with a time of 22 minutes and 51 seconds and senior Iona Rohan finished 27th overall by running the course in 22:53. Falcon runners Clara Martin, Bethany Justus, and Madison Taylor rounded out the team scoring with placings of 39th, 41st, 45th, and 53rd, respectively.
Falcon senior Evan Mellish led the boys team with his 10th-place finish and time of 17:30. Junior Cory Ackerman placed 23rd overall with a time of 17:54, while junior Collin Burns finished 28th by recording a time of 18:09. Junior Will Simms placed 34th overall, followed by sophomore Sean Miles’ 44th placing, sophomore Joe Davies’ 96th placing, and senior Isaac Greene’s 113th finish. The boys team placed fifth overall. South Whidbey junior Justin Gonzales sat out of the meet while recovering from an injury.
Every South Whidbey girls runner recorded season-best times at the meet.
“The girls ran real well at conference,” said Falcon head coach Doug Fulton. “It’s kind of rare to get (personal records) all the way down the list.”
The Falcons will now gear up for the Northwest District 1 Championships on Oct. 31 at South Whidbey High School. The tournament includes 49 schools from the 1B/2B, 1A, 2A, and 3A classifications. It will be the 10th year South Whidbey has hosted the state-qualifying meet.
It’s a large undertaking for Fulton, who tirelessly prepares in the weeks leading up to ensure the event runs smoothly.
“It’s a lot of work, but I like doing it,” Fulton said.
Fulton is expecting rain on Saturday, though the course won’t be nearly as drenched as it was last year. Over eight inches of rain in the two weeks leading up to the meet caused the course to lose its integrity, with mud pits and puddles covering the trails and fields.
Mitchem and Donnelly were more optimistic about the weather.
“No, we love the rain and we’re going to have a great race because we know this course in the rain,” Mitchem said. “Other people don’t. We’re going to know all the muddy spots and the routes.”
Mitchem qualified for the Class 1A State Championships in 2014 by placing ninth at the district tournament. She eventually went on to place 13th overall at the state meet. Saturday will mark her final time running the course competitively, a thought she’s purposely left out of her mind.
“I think it’s exciting,” Mitchem said. “The whole last race, that kind of side, I’m just not letting myself go there because it will be really sad. I just need to focus.”
Donnelly said she is running her best races at the season’s end, which will hopefully have a positive impact on her chance of qualifying for state.
“Well, hopefully it’s going to be one of my best races of the season because I’ve finally gotten into my groove, I feel like,” Donnelly said. “I just want it to be a good one.”
South Whidbey’s course isn’t an easy one, Fulton, Donnelly and Mitchem all agreed. But if the Falcons stay positive and fight through the elements, they believe the team has a good shot at advancing.
Individuals in the top-20 advance to state, as well as the top four teams in the boys and girls competitions.
“Because it’s a state-qualifying meet, girls come with their absolute best,” Mitchem said. “You are going to work harder than you ever have before.”