Before the Carl Westling Invitational began Saturday, South Whidbey freshman Flannery Friedman didn’t know if she belonged with the other varsity cross country runners.
After placing 14th overall in the Division 2 race, earning a podium spot and setting a personal record, Friedman’s perception has changed.
Thirty-six teams competed in the meet held at South Whidbey High School. The teams were split into junior varsity and varsity, and large and small schools.
“I wanted to run JV because it was intimidating to run with people older than you,” Friedman said. “But, then the coaches said I could do varsity because they thought I was good enough. Once I was in it, I was just like, ‘Well, you’re here now, you should try to do as good as you can.’”
The boys team placed fourth despite the absence of one of its top runners, while the girls were unable to crack the top-10 in the team standings. The individual performances, however, of Friedman, junior Elizabeth Donnelly and senior Bethany Justus were still enough to gain praise from head coach Doug Fulton.
Falcon senior Collin Burns led the boys by placing 15th and also landing on the podium. He finished the 5,000-meter race in a career-best 18 minutes and six seconds. Senior Cory Ackerman and sophomore Callahan Yale were close behind, placing 18th and 19th, respectively. Senior Will Simms finished 21st overall.
Competing in her first home meet, Friedman said her goal for the meet was to stick with teammates Elizabeth Donnelly and Bethany Justus. When she reached the trail portion of the course, she found herself ahead of both and among the top 15 runners.
“I thought, ‘This isn’t too hard, I just need to stay here, it’s only a little bit longer,’ ” Friedman said.
Friedman used her long stride to carry her through to the finish. She ran the course in 22 minutes and 24 seconds. Friedman said her goal is to continue building her endurance and help the girls team compete for a chance to qualify for the state championships.
“I know we do have enough girls to have a team, so I think it would be really cool to go as a team,” Friedman said.
Burns beat his previous time at the 2015 event by more than 30 seconds. He credited the Falcon boys’ offseason training for helping his times improve, as well as his own work ethic and consistency.
“That was my first podium finish and in that moment you kind of realize, ‘Wow, I’m starting to see the rewards,’ ” Burns said.
Fulton said the Falcons would have placed second in the meet had senior Justin Gonzales competed. Gonzales is currently battling a hip injury.
Overall, Fulton said South Whidbey performed well.
“I thought they all ran well,” Fulton said. “I think everyone that ran last year was faster this year, so that was nice to see.”