Sports

Boys win, girls 2nd; both qualify for state | Cross Country

Matt Reith, center, and Joshua Schrum, left, lead Oak Harbor to the district cross country title. - John Fisken / Whidbey News-Times
Matt Reith, center, and Joshua Schrum, left, lead Oak Harbor to the district cross country title.
— image credit: John Fisken / Whidbey News-Times

The Oak Harbor High School boys cross country team won its first district-meet title in 40 years at South Whidbey High School Saturday, Oct. 29.

The Wildcats girls finished second and both teams earned a berth in the state meet Saturday, Nov. 5, at Pasco's Sun Willows Golf Course.

This is the second consecutive year both teams qualified for state in the same season after doing so only once (1995) in the history of the program.

The Wildcat girls placed third at state and the boys 16th in 2010.

This year's district meet was a bit of déjà vu for the Wildcats. The girls, as expected, placed second to top-ranked Glacier Peak and they did so again this year, and the boys were the surprise team of the field.

Oct. 22 the boys placed second to Glacier Peak as the Wesco championships but jumped over the Grizzlies for the district title. Last fall Oak Harbor was fifth in the league meet and then leapt to third at district.

The Wildcats boys took the 12-team district meet with 53 points; Glacier Peak followed with 79.

In the girls race, the defending state champion Grizzlies had 22 points, Oak Harbor 62.

There was more drama to the boys race than just who would win. Seconds before the race was to start, Oak Harbor's top runner Matt Reith discovered he wasn't wearing his number and sprinted 50 yards to the team tent to retrieve it. When he returned, the starter told him he had to "step out" because the runners were already "called to the line."

Reith and coach Eric Peterson protested while the other racers chanted "Let him run."

The starter and referee relented and allowed Reith to compete, saying they would review the rules and decide later if Reith should be disqualified.

He was not and placed sixth (16:43.03), followed in seventh and eighth by Joshua Schrum (16:51.18) and John Rodeheffer (16:51.18).

While those three had their usual standout performances, Peterson said, the key to the team win was the efforts of John Kaltenbach (11th, 17:04.99) and Steven Miller (21st, 17:36.83).

Kaltenbach improved four spots and Miller five from the league meet although the district race included three more teams and 21 additional runners. Kaltenbach defeated four GP runners that topped him at the league meet and Miller trimmed 30 seconds off his time.

The top five runners earn team points. Also running for Oak Harbor were Esai Cunningham (22nd, 17:40.53) and Dakota Power (36th, 18:05.45).

Ferndale's Connor Jungkuntz (16:20.99) won the boys race.

Peterson said this team's success was because of "pure determination." He added, "We came in knowing what we needed to do and we did it."

The girls success, Peterson said, was because of the team's pack mentality: "If someone is having a bad day, someone else takes her place."

Oak Harbor bunched five runners between eighth and 17th and all finished ahead of their places at the league meet: Christina Wicker (eighth, 19:43.5), Hannah Bressler (10th, 19:55.5), Heather Dale (12th, 20:15.04), Alex Laiblin (15th, 20:31.34) and Ashley Everett (17th, 20:49.9).

Carlie Kenny (19th, 21:04.9) and Taylor VonGrey (28th, 21:29.44) completed the Wildcat team.

Everyone ran well, Peterson said, and "Heather Dale had a key race. She has improved a great deal since last year."

Glacier Peak's Amy-Eloise Neale, one of the nation's top high school runners, broke her own course and meet record and won by over a minute in 17:46.53.

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