Arlington’s Vincent Loftis (650) leads the way in front of teammates Aiden Emerson (653) and Ryan Barene (647) during the Class 3A boys race at the state cross country championships Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. The Eagles claimed a fourth-place team trophy. (TJ Mullinax / for The Herald)

Arlington’s Vincent Loftis (650) leads the way in front of teammates Aiden Emerson (653) and Ryan Barene (647) during the Class 3A boys race at the state cross country championships Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. The Eagles claimed a fourth-place team trophy. (TJ Mullinax / for The Herald)

State cross country: Banner day for Arlington program

The Eagles boys take fourth and the girls place a program-best fifth at the 3A state championships.

PASCO — The Arlington High School boys cross country team claimed some more hardware and added to its growing status as one of the state’s premier programs.

Not to be outdone, the Eagles’ girls team made history.

In a banner day for the entire Arlington program, the boys team captured a fourth-place trophy and the girls team earned a best-ever fifth-place finish at the Class 3A state cross country championships Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course.

“That’s always been one of our goals — to have some consistency with both boys and girls teams (and) not have one overshadow the other,” Eagles coach Mike Shierk said. “And to have them just finish so close to each other, that’s historic. We’ve never had that type of finish.

“This is the best (combined) team we’ve ever had — boys and girls.”

With its fourth-place state finish, the Arlington boys earned their second consecutive state trophy and their fourth in six years. The Eagles placed third last year, third in 2015 and fourth in 2014.

Arlington totaled 118 points in the 3A team standings, finishing behind perennial powers Kamiakin, Bishop Blanchet and North Central. North Central and Kamiakin — the latter of which captured its third consecutive state crown Saturday — have combined to win each of the past 14 3A state titles.

“Any time (you’re) getting on the podium, that’s a big deal — especially in this 3A classification, which is so tough,” Shierk said. “… We run against some really, really good teams in Kamiakin, Bishop Blanchet and North Central. To be mentioned in the same sentence with those teams is a huge accomplishment.”

The Arlington boys placed each of their five scoring runners in the top 55, with just a 25-second spread between them. Their team-centered approach is illustrated on the back of their warm-up T-shirts, which read: ‘Running for their Brothers.’

“They’re such a strong group of guys, and they run for each other,” Shierk said. “That’s their approach for the season: ‘When I feel like I don’t have any more, I’m not going to think about me. I’m going to think about my brothers.’

“I think that’s why these kids seem to be so tough — they run for each other.”

Vincent Loftis, a junior, led the Eagles with a 22nd-place finish, completing the hilly 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 1.7 seconds. Aiden Emerson, a sophomore, crossed the line shortly after in 26th place.

Brandon Moore, a sophomore, gave Arlington a massive boost. Moore was sidelined earlier this season with a stress fracture in his shin, but ran a personal-best time Saturday to finish 33rd.

“We thought his season was over, but we held him out, did some training in the pool, rode him on the bike and we were able to get him back in there slowly (and) gingerly,” Shierk said. “He was definitely a hero for us. … If you would’ve asked me about (him) three weeks ago, it wasn’t looking good.”

Ryan Barene, meanwhile, was the Eagles’ No. 6 or 7 runner for much of the season. But the Arlington senior ran the race of his career Saturday, posting a personal best and a 43rd-place finish. Shierk said Barene was instrumental in pushing some of the Eagles’ top runners to a strong finish.

“He’s up there pushing our No. 2 guy (and) No. 1 guy, and he goes after them because he was sensing that they were starting to struggle a little bit,” Shierk said. “(He) kind of pulled them through. … He ran lights out. He was definitely the hero for the day.”

Arlington senior Chance Pearston placed 55th to round out the Eagles’ scoring.

“It’s really a culmination of years and years of hard training and just giving all your best on the day that matters most and just putting it together for your boys — for your brothers who fight just as hard as you do,” Barene said. “You fight for them.”

Arlington head coach Mike Shierk (left of team) congratulates his girls team after its program-best fifth-place state finish. (TJ Mullinax / for The Herald)

Arlington head coach Mike Shierk (left of team) congratulates his girls team after its program-best fifth-place state finish. (TJ Mullinax / for The Herald)

The Arlington girls, meanwhile, followed their first-ever district title last week with another milestone Saturday.

The senior-laden Eagles totaled 189 points, edging Wesco rival Edmonds-Woodway by two points for the program-best fifth-place state finish. Arlington finished 15 points behind fourth-place Central Kitsap, which claimed the final podium spot.

“The girls (might be) the most unhappy fifth-place finishers in the state right now, because they were dreaming big,” Shierk said. “They wanted to get up on that podium, and that had been a goal since the summer. But I think once they’ve had a couple days to digest what really happened, they’ll be pretty pleased with it.”

Anne Louise Fernandez, a senior, led the Eagles with a 43rd-place finish. Senior Paige Nelson placed 62nd, senior Hannah Johnson finished 68th, senior Maggie Delaney came in 69th and junior Kate Rosson rounded out the scoring at 76th.

The historic fifth-place finish marked the pinnacle of the Arlington girls program’s rise over the past several years. The Eagles took fifth place at the district meet in 2016, fourth place at district in 2017 and 12th place at state last season before breaking through Saturday.

“It’s pretty cool, because we’ve all been running together almost four years,” Nelson said. “Six of us are seniors, so it’s pretty exciting to see how far we came from being fifth at districts our freshman year to fifth at state our senior year.”

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