SK girls 2nd, Bainbridge 3rd at Olympic League XC championships

It wasn’t an ideal cross country season — September tends to be better for outdoor distance running than early February — but you could not have asked for a better finale as the top varsity runners from all over West Sound met Saturday afternoon for a league championship meet at Battle Point Park on Bainbridge Island.

With sunny skies and temperatures reaching 60 degrees, runners were able to forget about those chilly, rainy morning dual meets and get reacquainted with the sights, sounds and experiences that come with a big meet on a warm day.

Among local teams, the South Kitsap and Bainbridge girls, finishing second and third respectively, were the most successful.

While there was no doubt about the outcome among the individual racers — Port Angeles senior Lauren Larson blew away the field, beating Sequim’s Riley Pyeatt by 24 seconds — the Wolves received a few surprises among their runners that pushed them into second place.

Senior Evelyn Collins-Winn placed third with a personal record run of 19 minutes, 11.6 seconds, but junior Zoe Byrne was able to jump into the top six, finishing in 20:54.9, and Mia Carroll finished 13th in 21:55.7. Those three big performances helped South Kitsap finish with 65 points behind winner Central Kitsap.

“I thought if we ran really, really well we could get second,” South Kitsap coach Ed Santos said.

Just behind in third place was Bainbridge. Without their top two runners, Eden Michael and Lucy King, the Spartans were led by senior Cassidy Parr, who finished 11th in 21:38.1. She was followed by Zoe Lim (16th, 22:01.7) and Liliana Pohl (17th, 22:05.3), Hailey McCulloch (22nd, 22:29.4) and Cate Gleason (23rd, 22:31.7).

North Kitsap finished fourth, followed by Port Angeles, Klahowya, North Mason and Kingston.

The boys race was equally compelling as several small packs battled it out at the top with Kelton Gagnon of Klahowya and Daniel Lizon of Central Kitsap taking the top two spots.

Bainbridge junior Alexander Miller was his team’s top runner as the Spartans came away with fourth place. Miller finished eighth in 17:00.7, and not far behind was sophomore Aaron Ramirez, who took 10th in 17:30.3 mark. Ramirez held off North Kitsap freshman Dereck Cordova, who finished just 1.6 seconds behind him.

Rounding things out for the Spartans was freshman Bodie Strom (18:54.2) and sophomore Abe Cole (18:55.1), who finished 30th and 31st respectively, and senior Nick Grant (19:02.6) who was 35th.

Miller said Saturday’s meet felt like the first true race of the season, and he was happy to close out the season with a big meet atmosphere.

“There was a really long time there where I was just running on my own, not knowing if I was ever going to have a chance to compete,” Miller said.

That mentality, along with the course, may have contributed to the fast starts of both races as runners seemed to bolt out of the starting blocks like in a 100-meter sprint.

“This is by far the flattest course we’ve run all year,” said Kingston senior Curtis Upton, who finished sixth. “It’s only about 60 feet of elevation where the rest have had about 300. It’s a combination of that and the adrenaline of getting back into that championship situation.”

Upton’s time of 16:54.1 helped Kingston to a fifth place finish. Other top runners for the Bucs were Thomas Brown (25th, 18:37.4) and Emmanuel Moes (29th, 18:47).

Port Angeles and Klahowya took the top two spots, followed by Central Kitsap. North Kitsap finished sixth, followed by South Kitsap, Sequim, North Mason, Bremerton and Olympic.

Kingston’s Curtis Upton (left) and Bainbridge’s Alex Miller (right) run neck-and-neck early in the championship race. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)

Kingston’s Curtis Upton (left) and Bainbridge’s Alex Miller (right) run neck-and-neck early in the championship race. (Mark Krulish/Kitsap News Group)