Sports

Cat runners fare well at Mount Baker

Despite severe technical difficulties, including misplaced entry tags and a phantom power surge that blew a hard drive, erasing 1,600 race entry names, Oak Harbor’s cross-country squad pegged a strong showing Saturday at the Mount Baker Invitational.

With results still filtering in Monday morning, coach Seth Hodges was able to declare the race, minus the distractions, one of Oak Harbor’s best in a long while, with the boys placing 6th among 32 teams and the girls decisively taking the 11th slot.

North Whidbey Middle School boys team, which includes runners from both Oak Harbor and NorthWhidbey middle schools, won the seventh- and eighth-grade boys race, with four individuals earning ribbons.

The Wildcats arrived at the 43-team invitational at Silver Lake Park this weekend to find that officials lost Oak Harbor’s tags for every runner. Things got worse when a generator sent a surge through the race computers.

Nonetheless, the race went on, and Oak Harbor squads overcame adversity to place among the top of the heap. “On both teams, from top to bottom, it was the best day of racing Oak Harbor’s had in my five years here,” Hodges said. “All Wesco North teams were there so we’ll get a good indication of where we stand regarding the league championship in three weeks.”

Hodges added that all but one returning Wildcat runner beat last year’s time, with improvements ranging from 25 seconds to runner Kelly Garcia’s one minute 58 second betterment.

Freshman David Marriott led the freshman boys race from start to finish, putting up the Wildcats’ best freshman mark since 1997. Marriot finished the course in 16 minutes 52.3 seconds, only seven seconds behind Scott Sebens’ 1997 mark and 21 seconds better than Chris Wicher’s winning mark of 2001.

In the varsity boys’ race, Derek Wirth finished 21st (16:07.4). The Wildcats were able to get a total of five runners within a minute of each other, recording five of the top 10 times since 1997.

Varsity runner Jessica Brundidge put up Oak Harbor’s best time in the past six years and became only the fourth Wildcat girl to break 20 minutes on the course at 19:53. Leonila Celestino nearly joined her, running just four seconds shy of 20 minutes. Senior Brianne King crossed the line at 20:41.

Celestino’s and King’s times are the sixth and seventh best in five years.

In the JV boys race, sophomore Kelly Garcia took 19th out of over 200 runners, beating his freshman time by one minute 58 seconds; Garcia finished in 17:42.2.

For the JV girls squad, runner Meredith Bezold took top honors, finishing 56th with a time of 24:08.1; Inday Rush was only seconds behind, running past the line at 24:16.4 for a 61st place finish.

Hodges said Monday he was extremely pleased with the results, despite the technical snafus. “Overall, it was a great day,” he said. “All but one returning Oak Harbor runner beat last year’s time. Our only runner that didn’t post a best on the day had been out sick for the past two weeks.”

Due to the computer problems, postings are inconclusive.

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