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Seniors lead quest for state championship
Even though Annie Taylor was the only Spartan to qualify for the state cross country championship last year, she didn’t make the long trip alone.
The day before the race, the entire varsity squad jogged the Sun Willows course with Taylor. Next year, they told themselves, they would run the race together.
Thursday, the Spartans competed in the district tournament at Lake Sammamish with their minds set on qualifying for the championship as a team.
Check the Sports Roundup for district results
“It’s definitely really nice knowing what’s coming,” Taylor said. “I think it motivated us as a team because last year was just more about individually qualifying.”
The trip to Pasco has also kept the Spartans focused in the offseason.
“When you do that a year ahead, that really helps your focus throughout the year,” coach Anne Howard-Lindquist said.
The Spartans, who qualified for districts as the second team from the Metro League, had three finishers in the top 10.
“It was obviously a good thing for the girls to get second place as a team,” Howard-Lindquist said. “But it was especially nice to get second place knowing that they can run better than they did.”
Senior Emily Barreca finished second in the meet with a time of 19 minutes and 52 seconds, followed by Isabel Ferguson (20:15) and Taylor (20:41).
“There were some good really solid individual performances, but our feeling is that they weren’t at their sharpest because they’re really looking to perform well this Thursday,” Howard-Lindquist said.
Junior Courtney Odell, sophomore Maria Courtney, and freshmen Anna Misenti, Courtney Parker and Taylor Hebert competed alongside Barreca, Ferguson and Taylor at districts.
The Spartans’ toughest competition included Metro champion Seattle Prep and KingCo champion Bellevue. Both teams placed in the top 10 at state last year.
The Spartans must finish in the top four to earn a team trip to state. To do so, they focused on individual placement Thursday.
“Each person counts just as much as everyone else,” Taylor said. “If our fifth runner passes five people, that’s just as good as if our first runner gets first.”
The top 20 individual runners qualify for the championship.
During the last year, team captains Barreca, Taylor and junior Lauren Abrams have led workouts in preparation for Metro and district competition.
“For first-year runners it can be kind of a scary thing – running three miles,” Barreca said. “So it’s really nice as an older person you can really help calm girls down and get them to realize it’s about fun and performing your own best time.”
Even though Barreca didn’t join the team until her junior year, her quick improvement and dedication put her in a leadership role.
“I think she’s gained a lot of confidence, so she’s moved into that No. 1 runner spot,” Howard-Lindquist said.
Taylor, who has been running since middle school, is looking to improve on last year’s performance.
“It’s really fun seeing her having gone from a really young freshman on varsity to see her improving,” Howard-Lindquist said.
Even though the Spartans hadn’t run a meet at the flat Lake Sammamish course this season, the team has the confidence that comes from a year’s worth of hard work.
“I think we learned a lot at the Metro meet that we can beat a lot of really good teams in our league if we try hard,” Barreca said. “We’re going to go into districts trying the same thing.”
The boys team placed eighth at the Metro meet, claiming a spot at districts and earning some valuable experience for the young squad.
“In cross country, most boys varsities are made up of juniors and seniors,” coach Anne Howard-Lindquist said. “They’ve gotten stronger and faster over three or four years. We’re kind of unusual.”
Seniors Willie Wenzlau –who placed 29th at Metros– Tony Hall, and Win McCurdy led the underclassmen along with junior John Murphy.
Sophomore Eamon O’Keefe, freshmen Tomas Delgado and Brendan Willerford also competed Thursday.
With such a wealth of young talent, Howard-Lindquist can already see tremendous improvement and success in the coming years.
“If you know your reward is coming in two or three years, that’s a little bit tougher,” Howard-Lindquist said. “Even 12 months out is a long time in a high school person’s life.”