33rd Hole in the Wall cross country meet set for Saturday

An expected field of 98 schools and approximately 3,200 runners will gather on Saturday for the 33rd Hole in the Wall Invitational cross country race on the 5,000-meter course at Lakewood High School.

The event, said meet director Jeff Sowards, “is the largest in the state of Washington by the number of participants and by the number of schools.”

It is not only big, it is also highly competitive. As an example, Sowards said, the girls varsity race will include the state’s top-ranked teams in Classes 4A (Camas), 3A (Edmonds-Woodway), 2A (Liberty, Issaquah) and 1A (Northwest School), as well as Jesuit High School of Portland, which has the nation’s 18th-ranked girls team.

“It’s very fair to say that will be the most competitive high school girls race of any run in the state (this season),” Sowards said.

Among the top girls scheduled to run are Taylor Roe of Lake Stevens, the defending 4A state champion; Jordan Oakes of Holy Names Academy, the defending 3A state champ; Erin Mullins of Cascade (Leavenworth), the defending Hole in the Wall winner; and Malia Pivec of Lynnwood, who placed third in the Hole in the Wall race last season.

In the boys varsity race, not all of the state’s top-ranked teams will be on hand. But there will still be plenty of good teams and some outstanding individuals, with Tibebu Proctor of the Northwest School among the latter. A second-place finisher at the Hole in Wall in 2015, he is the defending state 1A champion and has already run a 5,000-meter cross country race with a time about a half-minute under the Lakewood course record.

“If (Proctor) has a good race here, he could definitely break the course record,” Sowards said.

The Hole in the Wall race began in 1984 and has been run almost every year since. In recent years, Sowards said, “the number of schools has kind of held steady. But competition-wise, and if the girls this year are any indication, the quality has continued to grow.”

And it remains a popular event, not only for the teams and athletes, but also for the community, with plenty of civic leaders and other citizens pitching in to help.

“We’re really proud of the event,” Sowards said. “It’s a great event for our Lakewood community.”

Saturday’s first race is scheduled for 9 a.m., with a final all-comers race at around 4 p.m. There are races for middle school, freshman/sophomore, junior varsity and varsity, with different divisions based on team-average times over 5,000 meters. The top varsity girls will run at 3 p.m. and the top varsity boys at 3:30 p.m.

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