Bainbridge Island girls take 5th place at State XC tourney

The Bainbridge High School girls cross country team took fifth place at the 16-team Cross Country State Championship in Pasco last week, culminating a progression of rank-busting wins that began with a fourth-place finish at the Metro Championship and continued with a fifth-place finish at the state-qualifying Tri-District Meet.

It was the best-ever finish for a BHS XC team at a state meet, surpassing the boy’s seventh-place finish last year.

Metro teams dominated the 3A girls race, winning five of the top eight places, and in that tough rivalry the BHS team lost only to first place Holy Names Academy, decisively beating Bishop Blanchet (sixth), Ingraham (seventh ) and Ballard (eighth).

The Bainbridge team win was led by two girls — junior Anna Scott (climaxing her first year of cross country) and senior captain and veteran XC runner Audrey Weaver — who ran in tandem over the rolling hills of golf course grass.

Toward the end of mile three, Weaver pushed hard to open a four-second gap, but in the final 150 meters Scott put on a ferocious kick and crossed the line a half a step ahead of her teammate.

Scott’s 19:50.0 was a 10-second personal record (PR), while Weaver, after lowering her best time by 20 seconds in each of the previous two weeks, finished in 19:50.3, just four seconds over last week’s PR of 19:46.6. Only four Bainbridge girls have ever run faster than Scott and Weaver.

Behind them, senior captain Naomi von Ruden unleashed another of her now familiar third-mile surges to finish in a season’s best 20:08.2, contributing to her team’s score by passing the No. 3 runners of both Bishop Blanchet and Ballard.

Just as exciting was senior captain Jackie McVay’s career-best of 20:16.2, more than 20 seconds off her Metro and district times, as she fought her way through a huge pack at the finish (15 runners in four seconds) to edge out Ballard’s No. 4 runner.

Closely following McVay in that same pack was BIXC’s fifth runner, calm and steady sophomore Natalie Taylor, whose 20:19.1 was just six seconds over her PR last week.

Most importantly, Taylor clinched fifth place for the team by crossing the line a few feet ahead of the No. 4 runners from Ingraham and Bishop Blanchet.

Freshman Emma Brundige finished sixth for BHS, rebounding from an injury at the Tri-District Meet for a time of 20:46.6 — just one second over her PR, and she, too, helped the team by out-sprinting Ingraham’s No. 5 runner.

Junior Adalynn Griesser, who on another day could well have finished in the scoring top five, had a rough fall in the crowded start of the race. Working her way up many spots from the back of the field, Griesser finished in 21:08.3, the fourth fastest No. 7 runner and ahead of scoring runners from five other teams.

How did a BIXC team ranked 16th in the state a few weeks ago manage to take fifth place at the championship meet?

The technical answer, according to Bainbridge coaches, is that this group combined good up front speed with unusually tight pack running — the whole team finishing close together. For most teams the “spread” (the time between first and fifth place) was a minute or more. The Bainbridge top five finished within 29 seconds.

Coaches added that this particular team has had both long-term camaraderie and the recurrent stimulus of new talent. While the dependable nucleus of veteran seniors (Weaver, von Ruden, McVay) have been running cross country and track together since middle school, they have been pushed each year by emerging fast runners — Griesser in 2014, Taylor in 2015, and this year Brundige and Scott.

Sophomore Sebastian Belkin, the only BHS boy at the state championship and the first one ever to make it there in both his freshman and sophomore years, finished in 16:49.1, making him the 10th fastest sophomore in the race.

Though he ran the first mile fast (5:03) and the second mile fast enough, he could not maintain that stiff pace to the end and finished over both his season’s best (16:38) and his PR last year (16:18, the best freshman time at the 2015 state meet).

“Sebastian had a solid baseline 5K against the best runners in the state but it’s harder to race on your own when one’s used to the energy of pack running,” said BHS Head coach Anne Howard Lindquist.

Looking to next year, some of his varsity teammates (as well as a few junior varsity girls and boys) ran an informal time trial on the state course on Friday, with some good results (Jacob Carlson’s 17:15, Nathan McVay’s 17:19). Linquist noted that this was a first step in getting the boy’s team back to state in 2017.

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