Wildcats dominate own invitational

The cross country Wildcats played rude hosts Saturday, winning both varsity races at the Oak Harbor Invitational. The boy’s team dominated their race, while the girl’s team eked out a measure of revenge for last year’s invitational loss.

Derek Wirth led the Oak Harbor boys as they scored 23 points in a rout of the opponents. Wirth won the race by outlasting runners from Highline and Mennonite Educational Institute over the last 300 meters.

“It was a great finish,” coach Seth Hodges said Monday. “You could see that Derek just wanted it more. He finished as strong as I’ve ever seen him, as the other two runners just seemed to fade away.”

Wirth’s victory was the first individual victory by a Wildcat since Scott Sebens’ Conference win in 2000. Following Wirth was the group comprised of Chris Wichers, Tim Riney and Richard Carter, which took 4th through 6th respectively to clinch the meet.

Freshman David Marriott and Sophomore Kelly Garcia put the icing on the cake, taking the 11th and 12th slots to put six Oak Harbor runners among the top 12 finishers.

La Center, a school in southern Washington, edged out Highline for 2nd place, by a 52-53 margin. “Their effort was right there with what we saw at Leavenworth last Saturday,” Hodges said, “and the team looks well prepared for the Conference Meet this Thursday. With a several top 20 performances we could be one of the top three teams in Wesco North.”

The girls race provided a bit more drama as the team edged out defending champions Highline by two points. The Pirates from Burien beat the Wildcats by three points in last year’s Invitational.

Leonila Celestino and Jessica Brundidge again led the way for the Wildcats; they went 2-3 in the race, 11 seconds behind the winner. “Both girls have been solid for us this year,” Hodges said. “Our best individual finish in the Wesco North race last year was 32nd, and I think both girls have a shot in the top 25 this year.”

Chelsea Rheaume of Highline, last year’s second place finisher, set the new Invitational Record at 16 minutes:41.4 seconds. In total, the first six girls, including Celestino and Brundidge, finished ahead of last year’s initial invitational record. Oak Harbor’s two other ribbon winners were senior Brianne King, who knocked 12 seconds off her best time on the course to finish 7th, and sophomore Amanda Gordon, who finished 10th while competing in her first-ever cross country race.

“The coaching staff was overjoyed with Amanda’s performance,” Hodges said of Gordon. “I’d like to say that she’s a surprise, but we knew she was a good athlete. She was our best 300 meter intermediate hurdler last year in track. She may not be a surprise, but she’s already exceeded any expectations we had for her this season after her late start.”

Although Oak Harbor managed to get 4 girls in the top 10, it was not enough for the victory. “Highline had us by one point after four runners,” Hodges pointed out. “It is common knowledge that a cross country team is only as strong as its number five runner. It’s tough for coaches to convince runners that they all count, and today our five and six runners showed how important they were.”

Senior Danielle Berg finished 15th and ahead of Highline’s number 5 runner by 10 seconds to guarantee at least a tie for the meet. Senior Kellie Gamble also finished ahead of Highline’s number 5 for the victory.

“It was revenge for last year’s loss to Highline, and a great way for our seniors to finish in their last home meet,” Hodges said. “We have much more depth this year and it was on display in Saturday’s victory.”

The girls were 6th last year in the Wesco North and look to move up one or two places with a good day on Thursday.

In the Boys Junior Varsity race, Oak Harbor Sophomore Barrett Horn won the competition by a wide margin at 15:01.4, breaking last year’s JV record by 16 seconds.

Oak Harbor Cross Country Invitational 4000 meters at Camp Casey

Boys Team Results

Oak Harbor 23, La Center 52, Highline 53, Mennonite Educational Institute (Abbotsford, B.C.) Incomplete

Boys Individual Results

1. Derek Wirth, OH, 13:45.6; 2. Polo Perez-Chica, Highline, 13:50.2; 3. Mark Klassen, MEI, 13:52.6; 4. Chris Wichers, OH, 14:01.1; 5. Tim Riney, OH, 14:05.8; 6. Richard Carter, OH, 14:14.6; 11. David Marriott, OH, 14:24.0; 12. Kelly Garcia, OH, 14:28.6; 16. Greg Dillard, OH, 14:49.0.

Girls Team Results

Oak Harbor 39, Highline 41, La Center 45, Mennonite Educational Institute (Abbotsford B.C.) 102

Girls Individual Results

1. Chelsea Rheaume, Highline, 16:41.4 (new meet record); 2. Sarah Davis, La Center, 16:50.0; 3. Leonila Celestino, OH, 16:51.9; 4. Jessica Brundidge, OH, 16:52.7; 7. Brianne King, OH, 17:36.3; 10. Amanda Gordon, OH, 17:54.0; 15. Danielle Berg, OH, 18:34.4; 16. Kellie Gamble, OH, 18:37.2; 19. Alyssa Marriott, OH, 19:04.9; 20. Ashley Denton, OH, 19:08.3; 23. Meredith Bezold, OH, 19:56.6; 29. Jessica Roberts, OH, 21:04.6

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