Runners better at district

Both Wildcat cross country teams made big improvements last Friday at the district meet in Mount Vernon.

The girls finished 8th of 16 teams, moving up three spots from last year’s 11th place finish. The boys managed a four-place improvement as they moved from 13th to 9th.

“We had a tremendous team effort today as the boys managed to knock 102 points off of last year’s score, and the girls 76,” coach Seth Hodges said Tuesday. “All 13 of our runners set either season or career bests for 5,000 meters.”

Lead runners were Derek Wirth and Chris Wichers as they went 30th and 31st for Wildcat boys. Each took about 40 seconds off their marks from earlier this year on the same course.

“Derek and Chris were determined to get to the state meet this year, and came up a bit short,” Hodges said. “I was proud of their efforts as they helped each other all season and achieved personal bests over 5,000 meters in the race.”

Both Wichers and Wirth will be back next year.

Two senior captains went out with their best races as Tim Riney finished 50th and took 14 seconds off his mark from last year, and Greg Dillard finished 57th — 35 places better than his junior effort and one minute, 17 seconds faster.

“Both Tim and Greg have dedicated four years to the squad, and they certainly deserve to cap off their careers with such quality races,” Hodges said. “After reviewing the score sheets and performances from the season, I believe the boys achieved everything we could have expected of them.”

The boys finished the season 85-20, with a 24-8 record against Wesco North opponents. The outlook for next year already looks good, as six of the top eight runners return in 2003.

The Wildcat girls had their best district finish since the team placed 3rd in a seven-team district race in 1998. This year the girls were 8th from among 16 teams.

Oak Harbor’s two lead girls ran tough in attempting to win a berth to the state meet. Jessica Brundidge and Leonila Celestino finished 32nd and 37th respectively.

“Both girls went out to the lead pack and gave it a great attempt,” Hodges said. “Both also came away with their best 5000 meter times and the best marks at the Skagit course since Beth Cullen in 1999.

Celestino and Brundidge also return next year.

The main reason for the girls’ improvement was better conditioning. “The girls came into the season in shape and probably put in about 25 percent more miles than last year,” Hodges said.

As a result, the girls put all five scoring runners in the top 58. Last year Oak Harbor’s number two runner was 59th.

Sophomore Amanda Gordon was 45th in only her third cross country race. Seniors Brianne King and Danielle Berg closed out their thee-year careers as they took 55th and 58th places.

“Brianne has been our steadiest performer for the past three years, and I can’t recall her ever having a bad race — something extremely unusual for the sport,” Hodges said. “Danielle really came through in the race with her first 5000 meters under 22 minutes. She’s been stuck in the upper 23s for the past two years, and this may be the breakthrough she needs to propel her into collegiate cross country.”

The girls finished the season 61-30 with a 12-17 mark in Wesco North.

“The girls know how misleading their record is due to the strength of our league,” Hodges said. The Wildcat girls went 13-2 against 4A and 3A schools outside the Wesco, and both losses were to teams who are running in this weekend’s state meet. The team’s top three runners will return.

District 1 4A Championships

Skagit Valley College, Mt. Vernon, Nov. 1, 5,000 meters

Boys’ individual results

30. Derek Wirth 17:04, 31. Chris Wichers 17:05, 50. Tim Riney 17:24, 57. Greg Dillard 17:34, 62. Richard Carter 17:43, 74. Kelly Garcia 18:00, 82. David Marriott 18:17. 109 runners

Girls’ individual results

32. Jessica Brundidge 20:47, 37. Leonila Celestino 21:10, 45. Amanda Gordon 21:30, 55. Brianne King 21:52, 58. Danielle Berg 21:56, 88. Ashley Denton 23:25. 106 runners

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