Fall prep preview | Oak Harbor cross country

Coming off one of the most successful seasons in school history, the Oak Harbor High School cross country team looks to replace the depth that helped the boys win their first district title in 40 years and the girls finish second.

The Wildcats girls went on to place 10th at state and the boys 11th as the two local teams qualified for the state meet in back-to-back years for the first time. Only once before, in 1995, had both teams qualified for state in the same season.

Coach Eric Peterson said graduation robbed Oak Harbor of much of its depth: “While any coach wishes their program just reloaded, this will be kind of a rebuilding year for us. We still have our runners that will be top finishers in the district but we lost a lot of depth with graduating seniors.”

He said the middle school program and two running clubs do “a great job with young kids” and “overall, we should be fine.”

With the recent success, Peterson said,  “We definitely had a draw of some new faces from other sports. And yes, we have some kids that have never run before that want to just try it. I really think it comes down to a certain kind of kid with a great work ethic and mental toughness that is drawn to the sport.”

The boys return 11 lettermen: seniors Wyatt Homola, Isaac Matthews and Patrick Meyer; juniors Brendan Bristow,  Alexander Krantz,  Caley Powers, Clayton Richardson, Nathan Wagner and Stephen Miller; and sophomores Dakota Powers and John Rodeheffer.

Rodeheffer was second-team, all-conference last year. Caley Powers was honorable mention as a freshman but missed much of last year with an injury.

Key newcomers are senior Jason Salas, juniors Haruka Earney and Gavin Stewart, sophomore Steve Hall and freshmen Jon Dix and Logan Clark.

The strength of the boys team is “the wave of new faces,” Peterson said, “that want to work hard.”

He added, “While talented, we have a group that will need to learn how to race three miles and deliver in the big races. This group has big shoes to fill.”

Coming back for the girls are seniors Ashley Everett, Mackenzie Jackson, Carlie Kenny and Christina Wicker; juniors Nikki Blanchard, Rachel Crowther and Alexandra Laiblin; and sophomore Jonalynn Horn.

Last fall, Wicker received second-team, all-league honors and Laiblin and Kenny were honorable mention.

Newcomers include junior Rae Wynne, sophomore Marisa Sligh and freshman Caitlyn Dodge.

The girls have “great leaders” and “a lot of experienced racers,” according to Peterson. “The only weakness will be the depth, but I’m confident the younger runners will be able to step up and compete.”

Both Oak Harbor teams begin the year at the Sehome Invitational at 10:25 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 8, at Bellingham’s Civic Stadium.

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