Wildcat girls qualify for state cross country meet

The Oak Harbor girls’ cross country team takes off at the district meet last Saturday: (left to right, Adrianna Royal (3254), Allison Duvenez (3250), Ariel McCarter, Christina Wickers, Jessica Denmon (3249), Taylor Von Grey, and Abby Leete (3252). The Wildcats qualified for the state meet. - Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times
The Oak Harbor girls’ cross country team takes off at the district meet last Saturday: (left to right, Adrianna Royal (3254), Allison Duvenez (3250), Ariel McCarter, Christina Wickers, Jessica Denmon (3249), Taylor Von Grey, and Abby Leete (3252). The Wildcats qualified for the state meet.
— image credit: Jim Waller/Whidbey News-Times

One point. By the slimmest of margins the Oak Harbor High School girls’ cross country team qualified for next Saturday’s state meet at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course.

Three berths for state were available to 4A teams at the Northwest 4A District cross country meet last Saturday at South Whidbey High School. Oak Harbor coaches figured there were seven teams capable of grabbing that third and last spot and the Wildcats were one.

They were right. Oak Harbor finished third with 134 points, one ahead of Lake Stevens.

Stanwood won with 54 points and Arlington was next at 118 as the Wesco North dominated the meet and took the top four team spots in the 14-team race.

The Oak Harbor boys’ team finished ninth with 206 points; Jackson won with 21. The Timberwolves, No. 1 in the country in some polls, finished 1-3-4-5-8. Coupeville’s Tyler King, who competes for Oak Harbor because the Wolves do not have a cross country team, placed sixth and qualified for state. The top 15 individuals and top three teams earned state berths.

The 5K course was muddy and slippery from a constant downpour. The 2A and 3A girls’ and boys’ also used the course and footing worsened as each race chewed up the track more. The 4A girls ran the third race of the day and the 4A boys sixth, and last.

While the Lake Stevens girls’ team was the hard-luck losers in the girls’ team race, Oak Harbor’s Matt Reith was the tough-luck boy. He finished 16th, one place short of a state trip. He will be the first alternate.

At the conclusion of the girls’ race, another coach quickly tallied the results and told Oak Harbor coaches Eric Peterson and Andy Wesley that he had Oak Harbor fourth. As the official results were read from the bottom up, the Oak Harbor squad was surprised and elated when Lake Stevens was announced as the fourth-place team. Never had they been happier about someone else’s lack of math skills.

Each school entered seven runners; the top five earned points for their team.

In the girls’ race, junior Allison Duvenez took sixth (19:33.38), and junior Adrianna Royal seventh (19:37.7) out of 95 girls to pace the Wildcats. Senior Jessica Denmon was fourth among the ‘Cat runners in 44th (21:27.4).

The coaches were pleased with those efforts, but they said the keys to Oak Harbor’s success were freshman Christina Wickers, third for the Wildcats and 28th overall (20:52.76), and junior Abby Leete, fifth and 49th (21:47.69).

Wesley called Wickers’ race “a difference maker.” Peterson called Wickers’ effort “a breakout performance.”

Wesley said Leete “loves cross country” and was expected to be one of the Wildcats’ top three runners. He said, “She ran almost 500 miles this summer getting ready for the season.” However, about two weeks into the season Leete injured a knee and was hobbled throughout the fall.

Wesley said he knew she would be an integral part of the team if they could nurse her along to district. He said, “We knew if she could be in our top five at the district race, we would have a shot of making it to state.” He added, her gutty performance “was a vital part to the team making it to state.”

Also running for the Oak Harbor girls were sophomore Taylor Von Grey (52nd, 21:52.76) and senior Ariel McCarter (73rd, 22:28.21).

On the boys’ side, King, who had been extremely sick for several weeks, toughed it out to get sixth. When healthy earlier this year, he defeated some of the runners who finished ahead of him at district.

Peterson said, “He is still coming back from a pretty serious bout of flu which kept him out, so I’m expecting him to finally be back at 100 percent for the state meet.”

Last year as a sophomore King finished 22nd at state in 16:05.

Peterson also praised sophomore Reith (16th, 17:12.45) and senior Matt Bolte (54th, 18:19.18).

Peterson said Reith’s performance was “huge as a sophomore.” He added, “Matt also had the flu two weeks ago and has been struggling to get his lungs and legs back.”

Speaking about Bolte, Peterson said, “He took 20 seconds off of last year’s time on the rain-soaked course, but more importantly he has been a leader for the team this season with incredible work ethic and character.”

Senior Christopher Horn (63rd, 18:30.93), freshman John Kaltenbach (67th, 18:39.68), sophomore Mitchell Jackson (78th, 19:12), and freshman Wyatt Homola (92nd, 19:56.84) also chipped in for the Wildcats in the 98-boy race.

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