A chilly, rainy 45-degree morning was just perfect for the Olympic League’s first cross country meet of the season at Belfair.
After nearly 11 months without competition of any kind due to COVID-19 restrictions, the six schools that descended upon North Mason High School Saturday forged ahead in less-than ideal conditions. And they were rewarded as the skies over Phil Pugh Stadium changed from dark, rain-filled clouds to clear blue skies over the course of the day.
But the weather and course conditions, which started out muddy, but dried as the day went on, didn’t seem to matter — the runners were happy to be out and competing against each another.
“I’m really excited about it,” Bainbridge junior Eden Michael said. “We had a long period of training and that was really nice, but being able to race other teams is really great.”
Michael, a swimming and track athlete tackling her first cross country race, finished second on the two-mile course, going toe-to-toe with South Kitsap’s Evelyn Collins-Winn, one of the most-experienced runners in the area. Michael kept pace with Collins-Winn most of the way until the strong Wolves senior pulled away at the end.
Michael finished with a time of 12 minutes, 57.40 seconds and a successful first experience taking on a new challenge that differs quite a bit from the flat quarter-mile loop of the track.
“It’s definitely the hills and the unpredictably,” Michael said. “In swimming you go back and forth, you know what’s coming. In cross country there are definitely more surprises.”
The Bainbridge girls defeated South Kitsap 23-34 as Spartans runners finished second, third, fourth, sixth and eighth. Lucy King came in third after Michael with a time of 13:44.09, followed by Lily Curtis (13:54.26), Zoe Lim (14:26.08) and Liliana Pohl (15:36.84).
The Spartans made it a clean sweep of South Kitsap in the boys race as sophomore Aaron Ramirez finished first with a time of 12:09.61. He was followed closely by freshman Bodie Strom, who finished in 12:15.08. Abe Cole (12:26.13, fourth), James Nick Grant (12:38.08, fifth) and Peter Mace Korytko (12:46.28, sixth), were the rest of the scoring runners.
Collins-Winn, a South Kitsap senior, recorded the top girls time among the six schools that competed in three dual meets Saturday.
The University of Portland commit spent a lot of her time running long distances at fast paces with some of her college friends, and the resulting high level of fitness helped her find good form as she finished the course in 12:49.05, about eight seconds faster than Michael.
“I wasn’t sure how my speed would be,” Collins-Winn said, “but we did a mile workout a few days ago, and I was doing six minutes per mile.”
In the final head-to-head meet of the day, a pair of North Kitsap freshmen finished first in their respective races.
Matthew Fee took home top honors in his team’s race against Bremerton and posted a solid time of 12:38. 23. Like a lot of runners, Fee spent time away from structured team practices to get stronger and faster, but finds it better to be in a competitive environment with friends and teammates.
“I have this family of runners, and that just carries me,” Fee said.
The North Kitsap girls raced among themselves as Bremerton does not have a girls cross country team. Five freshmen ran for the Vikings, led by Ingrid Burchill, who finished first with a time of 17:03.68.