PASCO — With a pair of super sophs leading the way, the Glacier Peak Grizzlies fulfilled their meteoric potential and erased the frustration they endured a year ago.
The nationally ranked Glacier Peak High School girls cross country team rose to the challenge on a grand stage, winning the Class 3A state team title Saturday during the 2010 Washington cross country championships at Sun Willows Golf Course. Glacier Peak sophomore Amy-Eloise Neale successfully defended her 3A individual title and sophomore teammate Katie Bianchini placed third.
Besides Neale and Bianchini, Glacier Peak crammed four other runners among the top 22 individuals in a race that included 137 athletes. The 3A top-ranked Grizzlies tallied an extremely impressive 41 team points, easily defeating 2009 team champion Shadle Park (107 points).
“We were disappointed with the outcome last year,” said Bianchini, referring to Glacier Peak’s runnerup performance in ‘09, “so we really wanted it this year.”
Glacier Peak’s top six runners were Neale, Bianchini, senior Brenna Condon (15th place overall), freshman Megan Davis (16th), senior Sarah Whybark (20th) and junior Marren Haneberg (22nd).
Once again, Neale outdueled North Central’s Katie Knight for the individual title. But after edging Knight by only a second last year, this time Neale pulled away earlier and won by 6.2 seconds.
Neale’s winning time of 17 minutes, 31.8 seconds on the 3.1-mile (5-kilometer) course broke the meet and course records. Before Saturday, the course record was held by Megan O’Reilly of Mt. Spokane, who ran 17:35 in 2005.
About two hours before Neale ran on Saturday, junior Maddie Meyers of the Northwest School broke O’Reilly’s course record. Meyers won her third straight 1A individual championship but her record-breaking time of 17:34 didn’t last long, thanks to a confident, energized Neale.
“I didn’t even think about the time really today,” said Neale, who shattered her 5K personal record by about 17 seconds. “It was more (about) the win.”
“It’s kind of a nice bonus,” Neale said of setting the course record. “It’s good to have (Knight) pushing me because (in recent races) I didn’t have that.”
In cross country, a team’s five fastest runners score points based on their rank among competitors whose teams qualified for the race. The lowest score wins. Glacier Peak’s 41-point total was an eye-opener. The last big-school girls team to score better was Snohomish High, which in 2003 tallied 31 points — still the big-school state record.
Dan Parker, currently Glacier Peak’s coach, coached that stellar ‘03 Snohomish team. Based on how Glacier Peak ran on Saturday, this Grizzlies team is stronger than that highly touted Snohomish squad, Parker said.
“Better team, just a different circumstance,” he said.
Time-wise, the 2010 Glacier Peak group is superior, said Parker.
Bianchini, the third-place finisher, closed out the race with a fantastic kick and completed the course in 18:03.1, 5 seconds faster than Neale’s winning time last year. Bianchini improved drastically after finishing 18th at state in 19:18 in 2010.
In his 23rd year as a high school head coach, Parker has now coached five state-championship teams: four at Snohomish High (1995, 1996, 2002 and 2003) and one at Glacier Peak.
Glacier Peak isn’t the only local team that snared a top-four team trophy on Saturday: The Oak Harbor Wildcats finished third, improving drastically on their No. 8 pre-meet ranking. It’s the first top-four finish in program history, Oak Harbor coach Eric Peterson said.
“It’s been the same all season where they’ve run as a pack. If someone has a bad race, someone else steps up. That’s how these ladies have been successful this season,” said Peterson.
Oak Harbor’s five scoring runners finished between 25th place and 39th place overall (19th to 30th among team scorers). The Wildcats’ top three girls were sophomore Christina Wicker (25th overall in 19:34.4), senior Allison Duvenez (27th, 19:35.8) and senior Adrianna Royal (30th, 19:38.0).
“It’s pretty awesome,” Royal said. “We’re pretty close as a team and we worked really hard all summer.”
Shorewood was 10th in the team standings, spearheaded by junior Charlee Linton (21st place, 19:25.2). Everett High senior Chelsea Dowdell finished 24th in 19:33.9. Dowdell was 11th last year.
Mike Cane: email@example.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam and follow Cane on Twitter at MikeCaneHerald.