By Aaron Lommers Herald Writer
PASCO — Last year, the Glacier Peak Grizzlies won the 3A girls cross country state championship led by Amy-Eloise Neale, who placed first, and Katie Bianchini, who placed third.
Saturday, the Grizzlies proved depth can be just as important, winning a second consecutive state championship by edging Lakeside.
Glacier Peak finished with 102 points, beating out Lakeside’s 112 despite the Lions having the top two finishers in the race.
“The girls I had this year were nothing short of amazing,” Glacier Peak head coach Dan Parker said. “We lost our one and two (runners) from last year, and they were major performers.
“For these girls to step up and do what they did this year, that’s amazing.”
The Grizzlies’ championship repeat was aided by freshmen Heidi Smith and Natalie Church. Smith placed 17th and Church finished 27th and were the Grizzlies No. 3 and 4 runners for Saturday’s state meet.
“We had some freshmen girls that were really nothing short of amazing,” Parker said.
The Grizzlies’ top finisher was senior Megan Davis, who finished 12th with a time of 19:00.13. Davis was the third highest local finisher behind Katherine Gustafson and Sophia Nelson, both freshmen from Mountlake Terrace.
“Megan Davis had the race of her life,” Parker said. “She stepped it up as a senior and led the team to victory.”
For Davis and her teammates, it was a chance to showcase their talents and they made the most it.
“It means so much because we finally proved that it wasn’t just Amy and Katie carrying our whole team,” Davis said. “We are a strong team. We have depth and we have the ability to do this independently.”
For Davis, the only Grizzlies’ senior on the girls team who scored Saturday, it was a great way to close out her career at Glacier Peak.
“Today was my last race ever for high-school cross country, so I just thought to myself, ‘You know what, I’m just going to go out there and do it because I’m not going to get another chance and I don’t want to finish off such a great four years with any regrets,’” Davis said.
Losing runners to graduation has had little effect on the Grizzlies in the school’s six years of existence. Every year it seems they have a new class of girls to step in and fill the void.
“They buy into it,” Parker said. “They buy into hard work equals success. We’ve seen what the girls before them have achieved and enjoyed it. It’s not just achieving it, it’s enjoying it.”
It was the Grizzlies’ third state championship, all of which they have won in the past four seasons. In Glacier Peak’s six seasons, the girls team has never finished below seventh at state.
This year’s state championship was “one of the most rewarding,” Parker said. “Just to see this group, with no real superstars … a really great group of girls.”
Mountlake Terrace finished in fifth place with 157 points, just one point behind Prairie for a spot on the podium. They had four runners finish in the top 31 overall.
“I wish they would have got it,” Parker said of Terrace. “I wished they would have been up there on the podium with us. That’s a team to be reckoned with in the future, that’s for sure.”
Hawks coach Todd Weber said the top-five finish is a great building block for the program’s future.
“It means everything to that girls program and that group of girls,” he said. “They put in the work and they put Terrace on the map, quite frankly. It was just an incredible season and they never stop amazing us with the level they get to.”
Weber said he received some kind words from Parker after the meet.
“Dan actually congratulated me and gave me a big smile,” Weber said. “I thought that’s neat to be belonging to something that’s that amazing. Being one of the top teams in Wesco is an honor already. To be a top-five team and represent Wesco, I’m on cloud nine right now.”
Snohomish girls fifth, Jackson 12th
With a score of 193, Snohomish placed fifth in 4A behind Central Valley, Tahoma, Camas and champion Bellarmine Prep. It was a major improvement for the Panthers, who finished a disappointing fourth at Monday’s 4A Bi-District cross country meet.
“We’ve had a lot of upperclassmen and they’ve kind of progressed each year,” Snohomish head coach David LeWarne said. “That progression is why you coach and why kids stay in the sport. It’s just a testament to their commitment and diligence, especially after bouncing back from what was a fairly off race last week. To get fourth in districts and to get fifth in state is fantastic.
The Panthers were led by sophomore Kyla Shade, who finished 34th with a time of 19:10.90. Shade was followed by senior Hailey Nyquist, who finished 54th in 19:28.70.
The highest local finisher was Edmonds-Woodway senior Hailey Kettel, who finished 21st in 18:54.20. Brooke Kingma finished 23rd in 18:56.40 for 12th place Jackson.
Successful day for King’s
The Knights’ 146 points were good enough for third place, behind first-place Lakeside and second-place Riverside and 10 points ahead of Northwest.
Senior Kacey Kemper finished second with a time of 18:37.30, less than five second behind the winner Erin Mullins, a freshman from Cascade (Leavenworth).
Aaron Lommers covers prep sports for The Herald. Follow him on twitter @aaronlommers and contact him at email@example.com.