LANGLEY — Only a year ago, Marysville Getchell’s Jasmine Nguyen’s competitors hardly knew her name. Now, they’re more than aware of her abilities.
It’s because Nguyen didn’t compete with the best-of-the-best in Wesco last year. The junior runner developed a non-cancerous ovarian cyst that was surgically removed only a day before the season started, which effectively derailed any chance of Nguyen or the Chargers from being state contenders.
Nguyen’s endurance and perseverance willed her from not being able to walk in August to returning during her sophomore season earlier than she was expected to. With only a partial season of training and her body still tender from the operation, she finished 27th at the district meet last year.
“I knew surgery wasn’t going to stop me from anything,” Nguyen said.
It still hasn’t, as Nguyen not only won the 3A girls race at the District 1 cross country championships at Langley High School on Saturday with a time of 18 minutes, 53.3 seconds, she helped the Marysville Getchell girls to their first state berth in school history, after the Chargers finished second as a team with 89 points.
“It’s the No. 1 thing that I brought up to her,” Marysville Getchell coach Randy Edens said. “Just think about all the stuff you’ve been through over the last calendar year, it’s pretty mind-boggling. This race a year ago, she finished 27th and it was just a shadow of what we knew she could be. For her to accomplish what she’s done today, it just shows her work ethic, commitment and drive. She’s a huge example for anyone that wants a really cool story or wants to buy into distance running.”
Last season, Nguyen was experiencing hip pain during some runs leading up to discovering the cyst, but she thought it was simply that: hip pain. But when she had a seizure over the summer spurred by her epilepsy, she went to the emergency room and she mentioned that she was also experiencing discomfort in her right hip.
Upon closer inspection, doctors found a cyst the size of a baseball. She was rushed into surgery and it was removed that same night.
“I sat in the ER crying because I just texted my coach and I was like, ‘I can’t run,’” Nguyen said. “I’m out. I’m in a hospital having surgery. I’ll wake up in a few hours and I’ll let you know how it goes, but I’m out for the season.”
Nguyen, however, wasn’t out for the season. Her medical staff’s prognosis was that she’d be out for five weeks, but she returned in three instead.
That 27th-place finish, along with the scar that stretches across her midsection, provide a reminder for how far she’s come.
She’s gone from an unknown figure to someone the top 3A runners respect and revere.
“It feels incredible,” Nguyen said. “I know my competitors didn’t know my name. And I was like, you didn’t need to know my name. I wasn’t in your way. You don’t need to know me. But now when I finish, I hear ‘Good job, Jasmine.’ I can now say I can run with Ellie (Gard) from Edmonds-Woodway, Ellie (Baxter) from Snohomish, Anne Louise (Fernandez) from Arlington. It just feels amazing.”
Above all else, Nguyen went from the operating table to a district champion.
The Arlington girls were the top team finisher with 70 points, led by an eighth-place finish by Fernandez at 19:56.4 and a 10th place finish from Paige Nelson.
Over 18 seconds after Nguyen crossed was Gard from Edmonds-Woodway, who finished at 19:07.4 to place second. Jemma Wilcox of Edmonds-Woodway took third at 19:11.8 to lead the Warriors to a third-place finish. Lynnwood was the final team to qualify for state with 130 points, led by a ninth-place finish from senior Christina Savenkova (20:02.8).
Alexis Palmer led Glacier Peak’s one-two punch, winning the 4A girls race with a time of 18:58.4, and Aviry Statton was right behind in second at 19:07, as the Grizzlies captured their sixth district title in 10 years.
“I felt pretty good,” Palmer said. “Going into it, I just wanted get a sense of what was going on and everyone else’s race plan and how they were running. I just was kind of like, ‘I’m going to go for it.’ I just wanted to make it my race.
“I definitely gained some confidence today.”
Glacier Peak narrowly edged Lake Stevens, 46-55. Led by three top-10 finishers, the Vikings claimed the second and final state berth in 4A. Ashley Reeck led the Vikings’ pack with a seventh-place time of 19:44.6.
Jackson’s one-two punch finished in the top two spots, with junior Brenden Charbeneau finishing at 16:04.69 and junior Jordan Hansen not far behind at 16:08.63, and the Timberwolves captured their second consecutive district title.
Charbeneau came close to capturing a district title last year after finishing two seconds behind teammate Joseph Skoog.
“It feels pretty good,” Charbeneau said. “I was pretty confident coming into it after a Wesco win last week, but I knew the other guys around me had been training super hard and they’re super strong, too. I knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but I’m pretty proud of that. It was a good race.”
Kamiak captured the second state berth with 63 points, led by junior Carp Mukai’s fourth-place finish at 16:21.43.
Lake Stevens junior Owen Flinn finished third at 16:14.79.
How does someone transform from a team’s No. 7 runner to the No. 1 runner over the course of the season?
It’s not that complicated for Arlington’s Aidan Emerson.
Emerson, who won the 3A boys race with a time of 16:19.08, trained 50 out of 52 weeks following his freshman season, taking a week off after both the track and cross country seasons.
“He was very, very consistent in his training — almost fanatical,” Arlington coach Mike Shierk said. “We almost had to back him off a little bit.”
It was a bounceback performance for Emerson after he finished fifth amongst 3A competitors at last weekend’s Wesco/North Sound Conference championships at Lakewood High School.
But Emerson is back to being himself now.
“He had a little bit of a rough week last week, but now he’s back in great form,” Shierk said. “He certainly doesn’t lack confidence. Like any kid, he has his stumbles. But today, he ran lights out.”
The Eagles placed six runners in the top 10, including junior Vincent Loftis (third, 16:24.9), senior Chance Pearston (fifth, 16:30.71), sophomore Brandon Moore (seventh, 16:46.52), junior Quincy Fankhauser (ninth, 16:52.52) and junior Isaiah Lowery (10th, 16:56.95), to cruise to a 24-point first-place finish.
“I was really happy about it,” Emerson said. “Our whole team had a really good race, not just me.”
Snohomish finished second with 102 points, led by Joel Lepse’s 16:59.93, good for 11th place. Edmonds-Woodway was third with 106 points and Shorewood claimed the last state berth.
No Snohomish County teams qualified for state at the district race, but four Lakewood runners qualified individually.
Seniors Madison Howe and Callie Buchanan finished 10th and 11th, respectively, with Howe crossing at 20:28.5 and Buchanan at 20:33.7. Senior Jaydee Yargus and sophomore Alexa Dailey finished just in front of the cut, with Yargus finishing at 21:24 and Dailey at 21:34.5. The top 28 runners qualified for state.
The Cougars were barely edged out by Liberty 105-114, for the fourth and final team state berth, however.
When Mountlake Terrace’s Alex Williams finishes a cross country race, he immediately becomes a mayor-like figure, fist bumping every runner that crosses the finish line.
It’s a sign of building a sense of community amongst his fellow runners.
“It’s a good way to recognize everyone individually,” Williams said. “I don’t know, I like doing it. It’s good to spread the love.
“You think you’re doing it by yourself, but oh no, there are so many other people out there. … I try to do that after almost every race.”
Williams was extra chipper at South Whidbey, posting his second-best time of the season at 16:07.35 on the daunting course to place second, 3.3 seconds behind Sedro-Woolley’s Rafe Holz.
“I felt it went amazing,” Williams said. “Unlike last year, I thought we went out really fast. I guess I wasn’t really expecting 10 people up with me, because that’s not how it went last year.”
The Hawks were able to claim the fourth and final team spot for the 2A state championships by edging Lynden, 130-138 .
Sehome won the team 2A district championship with 68 points, squeezing past Bellingham, 68-71.
Naomi Smith knows South Whidbey, with it’s hills and rugged conditions, isn’t a personal-record course.
But she was sky-high after her race on Saturday, as the senior and defending 1A state championship finished at 18:08.54, 1 minute, 23.06 seconds ahead of her closest competition.
“It’s definitely not a course to PR on, but it’s a good challenge,” Smith said. “It kind of shows what cross country really is, that it’s not just a track race. Lots of hills and it’s a challenge. It’s a good one.”
King’s also won the team portion by edging out Northwest, 89-91.
Granite Falls’ Isaac Cortes is ready to end his senior year with a bang.
Saturday was a good start, as he cruised to a 16:38.53 time and a first-place finish to capture the 1A district title.
“I’m really happy,” Cortes said. “I was the defending champion last year, so obviously my intent was to win. This year, I’ve had a lot of tougher races and haven’t had a chance to taper down, so I haven’t really had a lot of my quicks back. But I felt good, and I was right in there. With about 1,000-meters to go, it was just me and this (University) Prep guy, and I was feeling fresh, so I kicked a little early and was able to be the defending champion.”
Cortes is a viable contender to win the state title after placing third last year.
“That’s my dream, ever since freshman year,” Cortes said of winning state. “I know there’s a lot of good guys, but I think I have a really good shot as anyone else. I’m going to give it my all.”