Prep cross country: Lakewood’s Guske pays the price for fast start

LANGLEY — Great pre-race plans often break down.

Like on Saturday, when Taylor Guske of Lakewood High School intended to begin with a quick but not overly intense pace. He had the lead for more than a mile of the 3.1-mile District 1 Class 2A boys cross country championships at South Whidbey High.

But Guske’s faster-than-intended start ended up costing him. He got tired in the middle and placed third.

“A perfect race would not have been to lead maybe that soon but he’s a junior. He’s still learning what it is to run there in front,” Lakewood co-head coach Jeff Sowards said.

The lesson wasn’t too painful though — by placing among the top 20 individuals Guske qualified for next week’s state meet (Nov. 8 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco). Guske and Nick Devier (11th overall) helped Lakewood finish fourth in the team standings, giving the Cougars the last of four state team berths.

“I thought our boys raced well. We got a little closer to Squalicum than before,” said Sowards, whose team scored 99 points, nine more than third-place Squalicum. Sehome (37 points) and Burlington-Edison (60) were first and second.

Lakewood’s Guske, who won the Cascade Conference race last weekend, dropped to fourth for a while near the end of the race. But over the final 300 meters, where runners transition from a grass field to the stadium track, he accelerated and passed a competitor en route to third.

“I knew once I hit the track I would take off no matter what because I just feed off the crowd,” Guske said.

The Nos. 1 and 2 finishers were Burlington-Edison’s Connor Whan and Sehome’s Scott Carlyle. Guske will have a chance to challenge them again at state.

“The guys are not neophytes,” coach Sowards said of experienced frontrunners that Guske must deal with. “They have strategies and arrows in their quiver that you might not anticipate. And he’s got to be able to respond to everything. So he’s still learning that game and he’s doing a great job for a junior.”

The other local individual state qualifier was Conner Ballew. The Archbishop Murphy sophomore placed 19th.

Cedarcrest wins girls title

The milestones keep piling up for the Cedarcrest girls cross country team. A week after the second-ranked Red Wolves claimed their first conference title, the team won its first district championship Saturday at South Whidbey High.

“It’s just another trophy in my cupboard,” Cedarcrest coach Bruce McDowell said, somewhat tongue-in-cheek after the results were posted. “It’s good recognition for the program. It’s something girls can look upon fondly, but in reality you got to put it away tomorrow because you have to start for next week.”

But his runners wanted to savor the victory, if only for the afternoon.

“(The district title) means everything to us,” said junior Missy Dowd, who finished seventh in 19 minutes, 35 seconds. “Last summer we worked so hard and we became such a bonded team — it just means everything for us.”

It is the second-consecutive and second-overall trip to the state meet for the Cedarcrest girls team. Sophomore Cara Strodel said last year’s trip to state simply whetted the team’s appetite.

“We just wanted to do it again and our girls pulled through,” said Strodel, who was the top local finisher in fifth place in 19:27.

Cedarcrest finished with 48 points to edge top-ranked Sehome, which scored 52. Fourth-ranked Squalicum finished third with 58 points.

McDowell said he wasn’t surprised by the victory.

“I figured we would qualify (as a team),” he said. “Our goal was to leave here with at least second place. I felt that if we didn’t do that, then we didn’t have a very good day depending on how the other teams ran.”

Sophomore Brenna Eldredge finished ninth in 19:44, junior Mariah Pyle was 12th in 20:11 and freshman Tia Smith was 19th in 20:31 to lead Cedarcrest, which doesn’t graduate any of its top nine runners after this season.

“In pro sports they always call it ‘a window of opportunity,’ right?” McDowell said. “This is our window and everyone of our top-9 return next year. At least next year I’ve got a good window and then some of the girls graduate and we’ll see what happens.”

South Whidbey sophomores Emily Martin (14th, 20:17) and Chantal White (17th, 20:18) qualified for state individually, as did Lakewood senior Lacey Nation (18th, 20:31).

It was a disappointing end for the Lakewood girls, however, as the Cougars finished fifth and missed out on a team state meet appearance by 11 points.

“We were really hoping for fourth place. Bellingham had their day,” Lakewood co-head coach Jeff Sowards said. “Eleven points is kind of a heart-breaker. The girls did all that we asked — all the team-building stuff. And they’re a really tight group. Emotionally it was kind of tough at the end.”

At South Whidbey H.S.

3.1 miles (5,000 meters)

Boys

Team scores (top four qualified for state meet)—1. Sehome 37 points, 2. Burlington-Edison 60, 3. Squalicum 90, 4. Lakewood 99, 5. Bellingham 179, 6. Cedarcrest 184, 7. Blaine 219, 8. Mount Baker 226, 9. Lynden 234, 10. Archbishop Murphy 242, 11. Anacortes 257, 12. South Whidbey 273, 13. Sultan 351, 14. Granite Falls 379.

Lakewood—3. Taylor Guske 16:39, 11. Nick Devier 16:53, 22. Chad Skiles 17:24, 27. Trent Tresch 17:31, 36. Byron Gouette 17:45.

Other local state meet qualifiers—19. Conner Ballew (Archbishop Murphy) 17:12.

Girls

Team scores (top four qualified for state meet)—1. Cedarcrest 48; 2. Sehome 52; 3. Squalicum 58; 4. Bellingham 121; 5. Lakewood 132; 6. South Whidbey 143; 7. Archbishop Murphy 156; 8. Burlington-Edison 232; 9. Lynden 286; 10. Mount Baker 298; 11. Granite Falls 324; 12. Anacortes 328.

Cedarcrest—5. Cara Strodel 19:27; 7. Missy Dowd 19:35; 9. Brenna Eldredge 19:44; 12. Mariah Pyle 20:11; 19. Tia Smith 20:31.

Other local state meet qualifiers—14. Emily Martin (S. Whidbey) 20:17; 17. Chantal White (S. Whidbey) 20:18; 18. Lacey Nation (Lakewood) 20:31.

For complete results go to athletic.net.

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