PASCO – Following his victories at the Metro League and SeaKing District Championships, Bainbridge High School junior Sebastian Belkin won second place in the 3A State Cross Country Championship in Pasco Saturday — the highest placing for a Bainbridge runner since 1994, when Chris Charles also took second.
Belkin’s steady pacing again prevailed, with mile times of 4:55, 4:58, 4:57, coaches said, as he moved up nine places after mile one, eventually running just ahead of Gig Harbor star Bradley Peloquin and outsprinting him in the final 100 meters to a new school record 15:22.2.
The race was ultimately won by Lincoln superstar and defending State champion James Mwaura in 14:48, a time that puts him among the nation’s best, and was even faster than his previous winning time, 15:32, last year.
Belkin’s 15:22 was also a big personal improvement, coaches said, almost a minute faster, in fact, than his previous best on this challenging course, 13 seconds faster than his PR and 24 seconds below the Bainbridge record 15:46 that Ryan Cox set at State in 2015.
Belkin’s teammates, running with equal poise and determination over the grassy hills of Sun Willows Golf Course, raced to an eighth-place finish, with an average top five time of 16:21, a full two seconds faster than the 2015 team ran when taking seventh.
Peaking when it counted most, all seven runners on this year’s mens team set significant personal records while executing to perfection the Bainbridge plan of “moving up” after mile one, coaches said.
Close competitors Carter Hall (16:23.6) and Carlo Ruggiero (16:23.9) pushed each other as they moved up from 86-87th to 59-60th, respectfully. Nathan McVay (16:47) passed 36 runners in the last two miles, setting the pace just ahead of Elliott Windrope (16:52.3) and Sean Lindsey (16:54.8), who moved up 31 and 26 places.
Team captain Ben Cibula (17:33.6), the only senior, also moved up as he improved his PR by 22 seconds.
In the women’s 3A championship race, senior captain Anna Scott surged past half a dozen runners in the last 600 meters to a 19:17.8 finish, 27 seconds faster than she had ever run a 5K before, coaches said.
That time catapulted Scott up to number two on the all-time state list for Bainbridge women, just behind Rachel Belt’s 18:59 (2003), 10 seconds faster than Emily Farrar’s 19:28 (2007), and far ahead of Emily Barreca’s 2009 time of 19:43.
It was an amazing climax to a short high school cross country career for Scott, officials agreed, who only just joined the team as a junior after recovering from breaking a leg in a sophomore soccer match.
Adding still more luster to their racing success, the full men’s varsity lineup, including alternates Jason Weiss, Sawyer Blair and Sean Westerhout, was invited to the podium to receive medals as Academic State Champions in recognition of their achieving the highest grade point average (3.903) of any 3A cross country team in the state.
But that’s not all.
Belkin now moves on to two Nike-sponsored events: the Northwest Regional Championship in Boise, Idaho (a qualifying event for the national championship), and the celebratory “Border Clash” in Beaverton, Oregon, that pits the fastest high school runners of Washington against Oregon’s best.
Beyond that, coaches said all involved are anticipating the an even more successful season in 2018, as Belkin and all the men’s team, except Cibula, will be returning, with a number of other talented runners pushing up just behind them, too.