Sports

Whidbey runners qualify for nationals

John Rodeheffer, right, leads the pack at the start of Saturday’s midget boys 3,000 meter race at the Lower Woodland course in Seattle. Rodeheffer won the event shaving eight seconds off his personal best time and qualified for the Dec. 13 nationals in Virginia.  - Photo courtesy of Arnie Peterschmidt
John Rodeheffer, right, leads the pack at the start of Saturday’s midget boys 3,000 meter race at the Lower Woodland course in Seattle. Rodeheffer won the event shaving eight seconds off his personal best time and qualified for the Dec. 13 nationals in Virginia.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Arnie Peterschmidt

The newly-formed Whidbey Island Running Club proved some of the top young distance runners in the state live right here in Island County.

In the second qualifying round of cross country competition for USA Track and Field’s junior program, the Whidbey Island Running Club was represented by eight runners at the Lower Woodland course in Seattle on Nov. 22.

Organized by Coach Catie Rodeheffer and sponsored by the North Whidbey Park and Recreation District, the club held its first workouts in early November.

“My husband and I have over 35 years of coaching experience and I believe we have a lot to offer,” Rodeheffer said. “I am in particular excited about what the running club can do for the school sports, keeping the kids more fit and motivated for their school seasons.”

Each of these eight qualified the previous week by placing in the top 35 of their Junior Olympic Association (Western Wash.) meet. Saturday’s race featured the best runners from Oregon, Idaho, Alaska and Eastern Washington competing.

The bantam, 10-and-under girls 3,000-meter race, had 55 competitors vying for 20 places and the right to travel to Mechanicsville, Va., to compete in nationals on Dec. 13.

Four girls represented Whidbey Island Running Club. Laura Rodeheffer and Kaitlyn Chelberg, both age 9, used a conservative strategy that saw them in 35th and 36th place after the first half-mile of the race. However, they used the remaining one-and-one-half miles to pick off struggling runners and enjoyed moving up rather than being passed.

Rodeheffer ultimately moved herself into 11th place helped by unleashing a ferocious finishing kick, earning her first ticket to national competition. Chelberg finished in 22nd place taking 32 seconds off her previous time on the challenging course.

Carolyn Wicker, also age 9, set a personal record by 1 minute and 12 seconds, and finished 52nd.

Megan Keating, age 8, also showed her strength by setting a new personal record by 1 minute and 6 seconds, to place 53rd.

Seventy young men flew from the downhill starting line to begin the midget, 11- to-12-year-old boys race. Several young men fell because of the crush at the start and the race was restarted.

Staying out of harm’s way were Whidbey Island Running Club Members John Rodeheffer and Sam Rosson, both age 12.

Rodeheffer put himself just behind three dueling leaders from Oregon, gliding effortlessly and waiting his time to strike. With a half-mile to go he took over the lead, quickly stringing the pack out behind him.

Setting an eight-second personal best record, Rodeheffer claimed individual title honors in the 3,000-meter race and earned his first trip to national competition.

Rosson employed Laura Rodeheffer and Chelberg’s strategy with a moderate start and steadily moved up some 20 places. Rosson’s personal record of 12:07.01 allowed him to finish in 23rd place.

Christina Wicker raced hard over 4,000 meters in the youth 13- to-14-year-old age group and set a personal record by 16 seconds. Wicker finished in 48th place with a time of 20:44.26.

Teddy Peterschmidt competed in the youth boys race, running an 18:12.78 for 60th place.

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