Jackson’s Matthew Watkins took second place at the 4A boys state cross country championship on Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, and helped the Timberwolves to an eighth-place finish in the team standings. (TJ Mullinax/Special to the Herald)

Jackson’s Matthew Watkins took second place at the 4A boys state cross country championship on Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, and helped the Timberwolves to an eighth-place finish in the team standings. (TJ Mullinax/Special to the Herald)

Jackson’s Watkins places 2nd at 4A state XC meet

PASCO — After suffering a stress fracture in his tibia shortly before the season, Archbishop Murphy junior Josh Rauvola and coach Paul Turner tempered their expectations.

“We had to adjust our goals,” Turner said. “We stopped talking about what our goals were at the end of the year and just took it week by week.”

Rauvola exceeded those expectations in triumphant fashion, earning second place at the Class 2A state championships with a time of 15 minutes, 55.6 seconds Saturday on the 5,000-meter course at Sun Willows Golf Course.

“I didn’t expect that!” Rauvola shouted to his family and teammates afterward while beaming with excitement.

“It’s pretty crazy in my opinion,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to be that good this year, considering I got injured right before the season started.”

For Rauvola, the injury wiped out his late-summer training and more than half of his season. His first race of the year wasn’t until Oct. 6 and he entered the state meet with just five races under his belt.

“The first thing was getting him back to where he’s running every day,” Turner said. “And then getting him in a race. And then, throwing in some workouts. We started at 50 percent, and then got up to 100 percent. So he missed two months of running, but then it was another two or three weeks before he was a full-time runner.”

Rauvola wasn’t back in full running form until about three or four weeks ago, Turner said, which makes his state performance all the more incredible.

The Murphy junior pulled away from a pack of three runners with a strong closing kick and finished eight seconds behind state champion Silas Griffith of Ridgefield.

Rauvola sliced more than 30 seconds off his state time from last year, and is looking forward to what he hopes will be a full season of health next fall.

“I know that if I can get a full year where I’m perfectly healthy, I’m going to do a lot better,” Rauvola said. “So that’s what I’m excited for.”

Cedarcrest took second place among 2A teams with 135 points, behind state champion Sehome (97 points). Junior Grant Van Valkenburg led the Red Wolves with a fifth-place finish (16:07.0), followed by senior teammate Ian Fay in ninth place (16:16.1).

Jackson senior Matthew Watkins was leading the 4A race with about a half-mile to go, but Camas senior Yacine Guermali passed him with a strong finish to win the state title. Watkins crossed the line about six seconds later in 15:19.0 to earn second place and lead the Timberwolves to an eighth-place finish (186 points).

Watkins cut more than 50 seconds off his state time from last year, when he caught a cold shortly before the race that affected his performance.

“It’s really nice to be feeling healthy and ready to go,” Watkins said, “rather than last year (when I wasn’t) feeling 100 percent … It was a hard race, well-fought and the guy who won was just incredible.”

Kamiak senior Cullen McEachern placed ninth in the 4A race with a time of 15:43.2. Glacier Peak took sixth among 4A teams with 161 points, led by sophomore Riley McDowell in 21st (16:12.4) and senior Nick Stringer in 22nd (16:13.5).

Edmonds-Woodway senior Matthew Park capped his career with a fifth-place finish in the 3A race, crossing the line in 15:50.9. Breathing and cramping issues led to a disappointing finish in last year’s state meet, but Park overcame that this time around.

“It’s nice,” Park said. “The place where it happened last year, I was thinking about that and I was like, ‘No, keep pushing.’ So I’m really happy with that.”

Led by Park’s performance, the Warriors took fourth place among 3A teams with 161 points. Snohomish placed seventh with 193 points, led by senior Aaron Leavens’ ninth-place finish (16:03.1).

Arlington senior Kevin Mullin placed 13th (16:07.3) to lead the Eagles to an eighth-place finish (201 points).

Cedar Park Christian-Bothell senior Ryan Abdalla was the top local 1A finisher, placing 13th with a time of 16:33.6.

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