The Oak Harbor High School cross country team is on a historical run.
Both the boys and girls teams qualified for the past three state meets after qualifying in the same year only once before in 1995.
The Wildcat boys wrapped up the past two district titles after not winning one for 40 years.
The girls finished second at district last fall behind eventual state champion and nationally ranked Glacier Peak and qualified for their fourth consecutive state meet, a best in school history.
Both Oak Harbor teams were ranked in the top 15 in the preseason poll released this week.
Coach Eric Peterson said, “We’ve been fortunate with our success over the last couple years. It has really come down to having great kids that are willing to work hard and keeping them healthy and injury free. The rest comes down to doing what we do and having fun. As far as our next step in the success ladder for our program, we need to get both teams in the top 10 at state.”
The boys finished 10th at state in 2012; the girls placed 11th.
The boys return three state participants, including their top two finishers: Clayton Richardson (48th) and John Rodeheffer (61st). Nathan Wagner also competed, placing 114th, sixth-best for Oak Harbor.
The girls lost graduate Christina Wicker, who placed 10th at state, the second-best individual effort in the history of the girls program. However, four state runners are back. Alex Laiblin (19th) and Jonalynn Horn (39th) were second and third among Wildcats.
Marisa Sligh (128th) and Rachel Crowther (134th) ran sixth and seventh.
Other returning letter winners are Brendon Bristow, Logan Clark, Carly Crowther, Steven Hall, Stephen Miller, Tristan Mirabal, Caleb Peek and Dakota Powers.
Among the new runners, Sebastian Ceasar, Miguel Guzman, Susanne Kaltenbach, Laura Rodeheffer, Carolynn Wicker and Kaitlyn Chelberg standout, according to Peterson.
Peterson noted that leadership is one of this year’s strengths. Richardson and Rodeheffer “know how to win,” Peterson said; and Laiblin and Horn have the “drive and work ethic … to navigate our younger girls’ team to the post season.”
Depth is also a strength with 55 athletes on the team.
As far as weaknesses, Peterson said, “There isn’t anything specific so far.”
Glacier Peak is, once again, the team to beat on the girls side, Peterson said, and Mountlake Terrace and Shorewood lead “a mess of good teams” on the boys.
“We’re just looking forward to a great year. Our kids have a lot of fun but know when it’s time to work hard. It really makes coaching enjoyable with great kids,” Peterson said.
Oak Harbor takes part in the 30-team Sehome Invitational at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 14, in Bellingham.