Spartans are off and running

 Spartan senior Nolan Amy looks across the Memorial Stadium infield at his competition during a pacing run around the track.  - Ryan Schierling/Staff Photo
Spartan senior Nolan Amy looks across the Memorial Stadium infield at his competition during a pacing run around the track.
— image credit: Ryan Schierling/Staff Photo

Bainbridge harriers, 100 legs strong, are poised to push for the state meet.

When Richard Christopher’s Spartan cross country team says they’re going to make a run for ice cream, they don’t mean a trip to the grocery store for their favorite frozen flavor.

The practices leading up to the beginning of harriers’ season have historically included a trip to Seattle for a jaunt through Myrtle Edwards Park, stopping for ice cream on Alaskan Way before heading back to the ferry.

Throw in regular team dinners and “boonie” runs, and the Bainbridge High School cross country program sounds like loads of fun.

Loads of fun, if you’re into pushing yourself to the limits of endurance -- digging down deep for the last 500 yards of a 5-kilometer race. Or running in tight packs, or running in sloppy conditions, or running when you know you’re the last possible hope to make up the few points needed for the team to go to State.

Despite jovial training interludes here and there, the Spartan boys and girls cross country teams are focused on a single, serious goal -- attending the state meet in Pasco this November.

“They know how close we came last year,” said Christopher, “so they’re really fired up.”

The “close” that Christopher is referring to is the lone point the boys team needed to advance from Districts to State. They lost to rival O’Dea by the slimmest margin possible.

Individual qualifiers Nolan Amy and Rachel Belt made the trip to Pasco for Bainbridge, with Amy finishing 31st and Belt taking 13th.

Christopher, who returns for his 16th year with the team, is pushing his runners in the usual pre-season ways, and since it’s largely the same group of kids, they’re familiar with the regimen -- running, and more running.

“There’s a whole bunch of people coming back,” he said. “We’ve got underclassmen with a lot of experience in cross country and one or two seasons of track.”

More than 50 runners turned out for the opening days of practice -- and the girls team returns all mem from last season with the exception of Lizzie Corbin, a 2003 graduate.

Belt might have had a hand in the strong girls’ showing -- she’s played the role of cross country recruiter for the last few months.

“I’ve made a lot of phone calls this summer,” she said. “To make sure everyone comes out.”

While Belt’s desire to make it to the state meet as a team is a given, she’s looking past it at an individual goal as well.

She wants to qualify for this year’s “Border Clash,” an Oregon vs. Washington race for the top 12 girls in the 3A from each of those states.

The Lady Spartans also added a foreign exchange student from Russia to the mix. Yuliya Bondarenko will be a sophomore this year, and add that much more depth to the girls team.

Missing from the boys stable are state runners Tim Freeman and Joey Tarbill, but Amy is confident the boys can still raise the bar.

“We’re going to have to work hard,” he said. “But we can definitely put a team together and go to state.”

His own individual wants are simple -- to lead the team by example.

“I’m going to try to lead most of my races, which is something I didn’t do last year,” Amy said.

He has the opportunity to return to the league meet this year with a very good chance of bettering his 2002 fourth-place finish. The three runners that beat Amy last year have all graduated, propelling him into the top spot.

Belt looks forward to facing both friend and foe in Holy Names runner Bevin Peters.

“We’re pretty good friends,” said Belt. “But not when we race.”

Christopher set up a challenging schedule, including a meet with O’Dea, Holy Names and Ingraham at Lincoln Park. The team has never run the course before, but away meets are the norm for 2003. The Spartans have only one home meet, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 2 at Battle Point Park. Lakeside, Seattle Prep and Cleveland will make the ferry ride over to challenge the Sparts on the fast course.

And Christopher likes his team’s chances.

“I’m really happy with them,” he said. “I think we’re going to give as good as we’re going to get out there.”

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