PASCO — Joseph Skoog picked the perfect race to post the fastest time of his career.
The Jackson senior standout crossed the line in a personal-best 15 minutes, 21.5 seconds to claim third place in the Class 4A boys race at the cross country state championships Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course.
Skoog has been one of Snohomish County’s top distance runners over the past couple of seasons, but one of the few accomplishments missing from his resume was a signature state performance.
After placing 30th in state as a sophomore and 41st as a junior, Skoog put any prior state struggles behind him with the best race of his career.
“It’s so satisfying,” he said. “The third time’s the charm, I guess. I worked really hard to get here, and it’s super fun to finally be able to conquer a lot of barriers that I had. … I put everything together.”
Skoog’s breakthrough state performance on the hilly 5,000-meter course in Pasco caps an impressive 15-day stretch that also included victories in the Wesco Championships and Northwest District Championships. He used a strong closing kick Saturday to finish two seconds faster than his previous personal best, which came in the league championships two weeks ago.
Led by Skoog, the Timberwolves placed sixth in the 4A team standings.
“He’s been super consistent all year, and he ran about as perfect as he could’ve run today,” Jackson coach Eric Hruschka said. “I’m sure he’s ecstatic with the performance and just happy to … show what he’s really capable of doing.
“It’s just really fun to see when it finally comes together for the kids,” he added. “That’s what high school sports are about.”
Arlington places 3rd, Edmonds-Woodway 4th
Wesco was well-represented on the 3A podium, with Arlington capturing the third-place trophy and Edmonds-Woodway taking fourth place.
The Eagles placed all five of their scoring runners in the top 40 and totaled 97 points, finishing behind Eastern Washington powers Kamiakin (37 points) and North Central (74 points) in the team standings.
“Any time you can get on the podium, it’s a joyful experience,” Arlington coach Mike Shierk said. “These guys all came together (and) were unified in what they wanted to accomplish.
“Even though it’s not winning the state championship, which is what we wanted to do, they’re very pleased. They know all of these other teams that came here would just die to get on the podium.”
Sophomore Quincy Fankhauser placed 13th (16:07.6) and senior Noah Loftis finished 16th (16:14.6) to lead the Eagles.
“They got after it, and they’re just a bunch of studs,” Shierk said of his team. “Jaw-dropping performances out of them.”
Edmonds-Woodway finished with 118 points to earn a podium spot. Deyago Peraza, a second-year distance runner, capped his standout senior season with a fifth-place finish (15:44.1) to lead the Warriors.
Granite Falls’ Cortes takes 3rd
Granite Falls junior Isaac Cortes delivered a strong closing kick, passing two runners down the final stretch to claim third place in the 1A race with a time of 16:30.9.
“It’s the last race of the season, so I just kind of went for it and gave everything I had,” he said.
After placing 83rd in state as a freshman and 35th as a sophomore, Cortes took his running to the next level this year and capped the season in style.
“(It was an) extremely gritty performance,” Tigers coach Steve Lantz said. “He was just tough as nails. … This guy knows how to finish. He knows how to finish races.”
Other notable local finishers
Shorecrest senior Erik Luu placed 11th (15:57.0) in the 3A race and senior teammate Spencer Thurman finished 12th (16:03.6).
Mountlake Terrace earned a fourth-place team trophy in 2A. Alex Williams, a junior, led the Hawks with an 11th-place finish (16:24.9).
South Whidbey junior Michael Cepowski placed 10th (16:45.5) in the 1A race.