LANGLEY — When Blake Nelson woke up on Saturday he wasn’t sure if he would even compete. But Nelson didn’t just run; he won.
Bothered all fall — particularly earlier in the week — by a sore right calf muscle, Nelson placed first for nationally ranked Jackson High
School in the Class 4A boys race at the District 1 cross country championships. Running on an ultra-messy 3.1-mile course at South Whidbey High, the sophomore helped propel Jackson to its second straight district title.
Ranked No. 1 in America in the Milesplit Fab-15 Team Rankings, Jackson t
ook another big step toward its ultimate goal. The Timberwolves, who packed five runners in the top eight, qualified for the state meet (Nov. 7 in Pasco). They hope to win it all after taking second last year.
Except for Nelson, who was hurting, “We trained really hard this week. We kne
w that next week (at state) is more important than this week,” Jackson coach Eric Hruschka said. “We had a little bit of a luxury to do that for the first time ever.”
Jackson scored 21 points and won the team title. Second-place Lake Stevens (94 points) and third-place Cascade (113) also qualified for state. It’s Cascade’s first state trip since 1995, Bruins coach Steve Bertrand said.
Cascade senior Dylan Hopper, the runnerup, had the lead with a mile to go. But Jackson’s Nelson passed him and finished in 16 minutes, 18 seconds, two seconds before Hopper.
“I thought he did awesome,” Jackson senior Mitchell Briggs (third place, 16:27) said of his teammate Nelson. “He’s been struggling with his calf (muscle) for two months. … It was great to see him actually win that race.”
A professional massage and a light workout schedule helped Nelson recover, Nelson said. But as late as Saturday morning his status was unclear. “I didn’t know if he was going to run (Saturday), getting on the bus,” Hruschka said. The coach considered shuffling his team’s lineup in case Nelson was too sore to compete.
Instead, Nelson gave it a go and won a race for the first time this season. After Nelson and Briggs, Jackson’s top finishers were Sean Roe (fourth), Nathan Calacat (fifth) and Connor Frederickson (eighth).
Now Jackson will gear up for state and its showdown against Ferris of Spokane, ranked No. 9 in the nation.
Other local 4A state meet individual qualifiers were Oak Harbor’s Tyler King (sixth), Kamiak’s Bryton Reim (seventh), Shorewood’s Joe Gladow (10th), Snohomish’s Jared Lehning (12th), Arlington’s James Clark (13th) and Mountlake Terrace’s Michael O’Neill (15th).
3A boys: Everett rolls, Hanson makes up for last week’s misstep
In a tightly packed race, the team that stayed close to each other — both literally and figuratively — had no problem capturing the district crown.
In this case Everett, paced by third-place finisher Cody MacDougall, finished 11 points ahead of Shorecrest and 36 ahead of Glacier Peak, which was just short of qualifying for state.
“We have blue-collar kids from a blue-collar part of town,” Everett coach Bruce Overstreet said. “They knew who they had to beat and they did it.”
All of the top five Seagulls finished in the top 16 runners overall. Shorecrest put its top five runners in the top 20.
One boy that no one from either team caught was Meadowdale’s Jon Hanson, who finished first place in 16:28. A week ago in the Wesco South Championship Hanson burst out to the front, ahead of even the vaunted Jackson squad with a kamikaze first third of the race. He eventually fell back and ended sixth.
“Last week I didn’t run the world’s smartest race,” Hanson said. “I go way too fast almost always, but it helped this week.”
Hanson, who finished 46th at state last year, hopes to improve on that next week at Pasco.
Glacier Peak’s Levi Hinson and Sean White qualified for state as individuals but the Grizzlies were without three of their top five runners Saturday due to injury and illness, which likely kept the team from reaching state.
2A boys: Lakewood, A. Murphy’s Ballew advance
This time, Conner Ballew was able to breathe so much easier at the end.
At the 2008 district meet, Ballew barely snared a coveted trip to the state meet; he placed 19th and the top 20 advanced.
But thanks to a mid-race surge he began on a large downhill stretch of the 3.1-mile course on Saturday, Ballew — a junior at Archbishop Murphy High — qualified for state again with plenty of room to spare. Ballew placed eighth Saturday with a time of 16:47, easily achieving the 2A top-20 finish needed to race at the state championships on Nov. 7 in Pasco.
“It’s a little more room to breathe,” said Ballew, who needed a strong finish last year to advance.
By placing fourth in the team standings, Lakewood qualified for state; the top four teams advanced. Senior Taylor Guske (fourth place in 16:39) led Lakewood, ranked No. 4 in the 2A state coaches’ poll.
All three teams ranked ahead of Lakewood (No. 1 Burlington-Edison, No. 2. Squalicum and No. 3 Sehome) raced against Lakewood on Saturday. B-E (38 points) won the team title. Sehome junior Scott Carlyle (16:26) was the individual winner.
Runners dealt with extremely challenging conditions (mud, puddles and even pothole-like craters). Archbishop Murphy’s Ballew said it’s the sloppiest course he’s even run.
“There were parts of it that are just a quagmire — the start (area) for one,” Ballew said. “It was really mushy starting off. You could push off but it was just a nuisance, but everyone was in it too.”
At South Whidbey H.S.
3.1 miles (5,000 meters)
4A Boys — Top three teams and top 15 individuals advance to state
Team scores: 1. Jackson 21 points, 2. Lake Stevens 94, 3. Cascade 113, 4. Shorewood 124, 5. Kamiak 135, 6. Marysville-Pilchuck 184, 7. Stanwood 186, 8. Arlington 203, 9. Oak Harbor 206, 10. Snohomish 210, 11. Mountlake Terrace 253, 12. Edmonds-Woodway 294, 13. Monroe 377, 14. 410.
Jackson: 1. Blake Nelson 16:18, 3. Mitchell Briggs 16:27, 4. Sean Roe 16:30, 5. Nathan Calacat 16:37, 8. Connor Frederickson 16:43.
Lake Stevens: 9. Juan Castillo 16:44, 14. Johnny Bywater 17:10, 19. Darin Nettleton 17:24, 24. Brandon Martz 17:32, 28. Mason Nicol 17:42.
Cascade: 2. Dylan Hopper 16:20, 11. Aaron Campbell 16:56, 17. Alex Bartee 17:16, 37. Steven Statham 17:54, 46. Keanan Sands 18:06.
Other local state meet qualifiers: 6. Tyler King (OH) 16:41, 7. Bryton Reim (Kamiak) 16:42, 10. Joe Gladow (Shorewood) 16:49, 12. Jared Lehning (Snohomish) 16:56, 13. James Clark (Arlington) 17:04, 15. Michael O’Neill (MT) 17:12.
3A Boys — Top two teams and top 10 individuals advance to state
Team scores: 1. Everett 49 points. 2. Shorecrest 60; 3. Glacier Peak 85; 4. Ferndale 102; 5. Meadowdale 108; 6. Mt. Vernon 112; 7. Sedro-Woolley 194; 8. Lynnwood 243.
Everett: 3. Cody MacDougall 16:55; 7. Angelo Comeaux 17:06; 11. Mason Newton 17:29; 12. Ben Dowdle 17:33; 46. Paul Koenig 17:50.
Shorecrest: 6. Joe McConaughy 17:05; 8. Chris Freeborn 17:12 ; 13. Carter Osborn 17:38; 15. Abiel Tekle 17:46; 18. Morgan West 17:54.
Other state meet qualifiers: 1. Jon Hanson (M) 16:28; 5. Matt Crichlow (M) 17:05; 9. Levi Hinson (GP) 17:19; 10. Sean White (GP) 17:24.
2A Boys — Top four teams and top 20 individuals advance to state
Team scores: 1. Burlington-Edison 38 points, 2. Sehome 70, 3. Squalicum 76, 4. Lakewood 114, 5. Bellingham 129, 6. Archbishop Murphy 139, 7. Mt. Baker 176, 8. Cedarcrest 262, 9. Blaine 274, 10. Anacortes 285, 11. Granite Falls 294, 12. Lynden 314, 13. South Whidbey 361, 14. Sultan 407.
Lakewood: 4. Taylor Guske 16:39, 14. Chad Skiles 17:06, 25. Nick Howe 17:22, 33. Avery Jensen 17:41, 38. Trent Tresch 17:52.
Other local state meet qualifier: 8. Conner Ballew (Archbishop Murphy) 16:47.
For complete results go to Athletic.net.
Mike Cane: email@example.com. Check out the prep sports blog Double Team at www.heraldnet.com/doubleteam.