ARLINGTON — The Hole in the Wall Invitational returned in style.
More than 100 teams. Over 3,000 runners. Music booming all day from the stadium speakers.
And a lot of scorching times.
Teams from Oregon, Idaho, British Columbia, California, Wyoming and all over Washington state descended Saturday on Lakewood High School for the 38th annual Hole in the Wall Invitational, which has grown into one of the largest annual high school cross country meets in the Pacific Northwest.
Last season’s Hole in the Wall was held virtually this past spring, due to coronavirus pandemic restrictions.
But on Saturday, the day-long event was back in full force.
“Like many of these COVID things, it’s such a relief to get these kids out here competing and seeing them healthy and working extremely hard at their sport,” Stanwood coach Mike Evans said. “I think everybody’s just gonna go home happy — win, lose or draw.”
The event featured 13 high school races, including three varsity races apiece for boys and girls. The three varsity races were split into competition levels — elite, gold and silver — based on each team’s average time.
The boys and girls elite races were chock-full of talent and were run at blistering paces on the 5,000-meter course.
The nationally ranked Jesuit (Oregon) boys and girls swept the team titles for the elite races in dominant fashion. And in the boys elite race, Sherwood (Oregon) senior James Crabtree set a course record with a winning time of 14 minutes, 45.5 seconds.
“It was a loaded field,” Snohomish coach David LeWarne said. “I mean, that was more competitive than the state meet.”
SHORECREST JUNIOR CRUISES TO BOYS GOLD TITLE
Shorecrest junior Luke Schmidt torched the rest of the field in the boys varsity gold race, crossing the line in first place with a personal-best time of 15:26.3. He finished 28 seconds ahead of the next-closest competitor in the 236-runner field.
Schmidt’s winning time was one of the fastest of the entire day. It would’ve earned him 10th place in the boys elite race.
“It’s been a long goal of mine to really just prove myself at a big race like this,” Schmidt said. “I wanted to race in the elite (race) today, but because it’s weighted by teams, I got put in gold. So I guess I came out here to prove I should’ve been in elite.
“I wanted to make something for myself, and I showed that today. It was awesome.”
One week ago, Schmidt ran a 15:42.4 while placing fourth out of 221 runners at the Twilight Invitational in Marysville. He said he ran too fast at the beginning of that race and tired down the stretch. So on Saturday, he started at a slower pace before surging past the field later on.
“At last (week’s) meet, I went out super fast … (and) my legs felt like jelly the whole time,” Schmidt said. “I did well, but I feel like I could’ve done better. So I took that into mind today.
“I just raced barely fast enough in the beginning — just to get a good position, but not waste myself early on. And then from there, you just weave and bob between people. They start to fall off quickly when they go out too fast.”
Schmidt fell short of reaching the Class 3A state meet as a freshman and didn’t get a chance as a sophomore, due to the state championships being canceled because of the pandemic.
But it certainly seems like he has the potential to be a major factor at state this year. Schmidt’s time Saturday ranks seventh in the state’s 3A classification this season, according to Athletic.net.
“I haven’t been (to) state yet,” he said. “I haven’t been in a meet like that with such high stakes, so having something like this gives me confidence to know I can come out on top there.”
STANWOOD SENIOR WINS GIRLS SILVER RACE
Stanwood senior Leia Jones cruised to victory in the girls varsity silver race, crossing the line in a personal-best 18:50.4. She finished 26.5 seconds ahead of the next-closest competitor in the 252-runner field.
Jones’ time would’ve been good for seventh place in the girls varsity gold race. Her performance led the Spartans to the team title in the girls silver division.
“She’s really, really a great competitor,” Stanwood coach Mike Evans said. “… She’s extremely competitive. She’s been that way ever since we’ve known her.”
Jones, who used to play volleyball in the fall, didn’t begin running high school cross country until her junior season this past spring. She said track is her favorite sport, but had her first two high school track seasons wiped out by an ACL tear and the pandemic.
“I lost so many opportunities,” Jones said. “… Track was my favorite sport, but then I lost (two) seasons. So I was like, ‘Well, I don’t want to lose any more chances.’ So I joined cross country just to save myself from losing those moments.”
Safe to say, she made a good decision. Jones’ winning time ranks 12th in 3A this season, according to Athletic.net.
“I decided to do cross country to make up the time that I’ve lost,” she said. “And now I’m here.”
ARLINGTON BOYS TEAM PLACES 6TH IN ELITE RACE
Arlington took sixth place in the team standings of the talent-laden boys elite race.
The Eagles were led by the senior trio of Aiden Emerson, Brandon Moore and Kiyoshi Hall, who each placed in the top 45 of the ultra-fast 134-runner field.
Emerson led the way, taking eighth place with a personal-best 15:22.6. Moore placed 25th at 15:47.7. Hall was 44th at 16:10.4.
But afterward, Arlington was a bit down. The Eagles have lofty expectations this year and said they’re taking aim at nationally ranked Bishop Blanchet, which placed second in the boys elite team standings.
“They were dreaming bigger,” Arlington coach Mike Shierk said. “They wanted to show what they’ve got here at an elite race. We’re trying to go for Blanchet, because they’re what all the hype’s about. They’re really strong. The doorway to the state championship is right through Blanchet.
“It was not our best day collectively as a team,” he added. “… That’s a tough field of runners, but our guys are dreaming big.”
Emerson’s time ranks sixth in 3A this season, according to Athletic.net. It’s more than eight seconds faster than his previous personal best, which he ran one week prior during a second-place finish at the Twilight Invitational.
Emerson won the 3A Northwest District title as a sophomore and placed 26th in that year’s 3A state meet.
“He continues to drop his times throughout the season,” Shierk said. “And he is fanatical about his workouts and his training. Aiden is probably the most involved kid that we’ve ever had in how we write the workouts and how we train. … His work ethic is unmatched.”
SNOHOMISH SOPHOMORE HOLDS HER OWN IN GIRLS ELITE RACE
Snohomish sophomore Paige Gerrard placed 22nd out of 138 runners in the ultra-fast girls elite race, crossing the line in a personal-best 18:20.1. Her time ranks seventh in 3A this season, according to Athletic.net.
“It was a super fast field,” Snohomish coach David LeWarne said. “And that was the thing, especially with a young runner: How are they going to handle it, being in that kind of field? And she just stuck to her game plan. … She just stayed calm and persisted through it and just kind of did what she does and just grinded it out and made it happen.”
It was Gerrard’s second sub-18:30 time in as many weeks. Last Saturday, she placed third in the Twilight Invitational with a time of 18:25.0.
“She is driven and coachable and consistent and determined,” LeWarne said. “She quietly goes about her business. … It’s not about the bright lights and exposure she gets. It’s about wanting to be the best she can be.”
PAIR OF KAMIAK RUNNERS EARN TOP-5 FINISHES
Kamiak had a pair of top-five finishes in the varsity gold races. Senior Jackson Hammons placed second in the boys varsity gold race, while senior Emma Arceo took fourth in the girls varsity gold race.
Hammons’ runner-up finish came with a time of 15:54.3. It was 6.5 seconds off his personal best, which he ran last Saturday during a sixth-place finish at the Twilight Invitational. His time from that race ranks eighth in 4A this season, according to Athletic.net.
“He ran a really solid race on pretty tired legs, based on what we’ve been doing in practice and stuff, so that was great,” Kamiak coach Charley LeWarne said. “He’s had a really good season and some big meets. (We’re) certainly proud of where he is.”
Arceo’s fourth-place finish came with a time of 18:40.7. That ranks 13th in 4A this season, according to Athletic.net. Arceo placed seventh in the 4A state meet as a freshman and 15th as a sophomore.
“Emma has been there kind of front and center (for us) for a long time,” LeWarne said. “So obviously any time that you sort of fulfill what the expectations are, that’s satisfying. … It was good to see her go out there and (finish) in the front.”
OTHER TOP LOCALS
Jackson senior Sean Bubernak took seventh place in the boys varsity gold race with a time of 16:14.2.
Monroe junior Alexis Canovali-McKenzie placed eighth in the girls varsity gold race. She posted a massive personal best of 19:01.0, which was 36.7 seconds faster than her previous best time.
Shorewood junior Rowan Casselman finished third in the girls varsity silver race with a personal-best 19:23.4.