LANGLEY — If Glacier Peak’s boys cross country team was the cavalry, then junior Riley McDowell led the charge at the 4A District 1 cross country championships.
McDowell spearheaded the Grizzlies’ effort on Saturday at South Whidbey High School when he finished first place and helped Glacier Peak cruise to the team title. Five of McDowell’s teammates also finished in the top 10. Their combined scores secured a 29-point victory over second-place Jackson and earned Glacier Peak a state berth.
McDowell said the Grizzlies were well aware of the fact that it would likely come down to Glacier Peak, Jackson and Lake Stevens for the top two places, which guarantees a team berth.
“We knew before the race started that we needed to go out fast,” said McDowell, who finished the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes and 7 seconds. “We knew both teams were going to give us kind of a run for our money. We did more than we were supposed to, so I couldn’t be happier.”
Glacier Peak and Jackson will represent District 1 at the state boys cross country championships on Nov. 4 in Pasco. Lake Stevens was narrowly nudged out from a berth by six points, despite advancing four individual boys.
Glacier Peak junior Tyler Tanta, who finished seventh with a time of 16 minutes and 43 seconds, said it was advantageous running behind McDowell.
“It’s kind of great to pick off the people behind him and see the race come together from behind the leader,” Tanta said.
The prevailing strategy with a cadre of capable runners is learning how each teammate races and motivating each other, according to third-place finisher Nicholas Mullineux Perrault, a Glacier Peak senior.
“It’s awesome to have so many people so close in PRs (personal records) together,” Mullineux Perrault said. “It’s easy to pack up and use each other to feed off that energy.”
Glacier Peak would have swept the top three individual places had it not been for Jackson’s Mateo Rivera. The senior finished second in 16 minutes and 24 seconds. Rivera is normally behind his teammate Joseph Skoog — the fourth best runner in the state entering the meet — but Skoog was dealing with stomach issues. Rivera said he took it upon himself to take the reins and challenge Glacier Peak’s best, which has turned into the Timberwolves’ rivals over the past few years.
“Week by week, that’s the motivation,” Rivera said. “We know that it’s going to be tight with them and we really want to beat them. It’s a rivalry that’s been building up these last couple years now and something that’s really in the back of all our minds at practice, every workout, every race.”
Skoog finished fifth in 16 minutes and 35 seconds.
Glacier Peak head coach Dan Parker was pleased with the Grizzlies’ performance. He believes good things are in store for them next week.
“We’re looking to finish on the podium at state,” Parker said. “We’ve got some really good teams at the 4A level.
“But, it looks like we’re peaking at the right time and if they want it, they’ll get it.”
The finish line at the end of the 3A boys race was one of the most tightly contested of the day. The top seven finished within 10 seconds of each other. At the head of the pack was Edmonds-Woodway junior Lucas Lacambra, who won the race in 16 minutes and 32 seconds. Several runners were nipping at his heels. Snohomish senior Matt Goddard managed to slip in between Lacambra and Edmonds-Woodway sophomore Deyago Peraza just before the finish line for second place. Peraza finished third, just a second behind Goddard.
“Originally my goal was top five,” Goddard said. “But then I realized I was close enough, so I was like, ‘What the heck, try it.’ I tried it and it worked.”
The top three teams from 3A advanced to state. Edmonds-Woodway won the team title with 50 points, followed by Arlington (64) and Snohomish (102). Shorecrest missed a state berth by one point.
Sehome claimed the 2A boys team title despite not having a runner in the top three. What it did have were five boys who qualified for state, led by junior Reed Smith who placed fourth with a time of 16 minutes and 35 seconds.
Bellingham senior Cade Brown won the 2A race in 15 minutes and 55 seconds. He was followed by Archbishop Murphy’s Joshua Rauvola (16:12) and Cedarcrest’s Grant Van Valkenburg (16:27).
The top four teams and 28 individuals advanced to state. Representing District 1 will be Sehome, Bellingham, Liberty and Cedarcrest — the same four teams that advanced in the 2A girls race.
Northwest senior Tamire Proctor won the 1A boys race with a time of 16 minutes and 26 seconds, while his team finished second overall.
Lynden Christian’s Eric Steiger finished second (16:39) and Meridian’s Kenny Barnes placed third (16:50).
The advancing teams from 1A include Meridian (first, 71 points), Northwest (second, 85 points), Overlake (third, 100 points) and Lynden Christian (fourth, 104 points).