Oak Harbor falls to top squads

Individually, runners turn in good times

Much like golfing, competitive running is as much about besting yourself as it is about beating the guy next to you.

At least, that’s the positive spin when you get thumped, as did Oak Harbor’s cross-country squad at a Thursday meet in Jackson.

Facing two of the best teams in the state Thursday in Snohomish and Jackson, Oak Harbor cross country runners hit a number of personal bests but fell short in team competition, placing third in a 4-way meet ahead only of Lake Stevens.

Coach Seth Hodges said Friday that his team continues to square up against some of the top runners in the state, though they remain among the best teams in their particular division (WesCo).

It was no different on Thursday, as both boys and girls faced off against the 5th and 11th ranked team in the state in Snohomish and Jackson. Despite the stiff competition, Hodges said a handful of his runners hit personal highs.

On the boys side, Oak Harbor managed to take third as they placed well ahead of Lake Stevens. Chris Wichers and Derek Wirth continued their collective hot streak, leading the Wildcats by finishing 12th and 13th on the day. Wichers hit the tape at 13:25 minutes; Wirth, 13:28.

Despite the team scores, the boys ran well, Hodges said. Individually, they were anywhere from 20 to 60 seconds faster at the same distance over the home meet two weeks back. Greg Dillard had his best race of the year, knocking 55 seconds off his 4000-meter time; he finished the course in 14:03 minutes.

Dillard was the Wildcat’s number 4 runner and managed to beat the number 2 runner from Lake Stevens.

Oak Harbor girls came within 5 points of edging Lake Stevens for third place in the meet. Lake Stevens’ girls currently are 13th in state rankings.

Also, the Snohomish girls showed why they’re ranked 4th in state, swiping the 4th through the 8th slots with only 27 seconds between their top 5 runners.

“Our girls still put together their best race of the season,” Hodges said, adding that they decreased the gap between the top runners by 57 seconds.

Top runners Jessica Brundidge and Leonila Celestino provided Oak Harbor’s one-two punch for the fifth meet in a row, taking 14th and 15th place respectively. Brundidge finished in 16:41 minutes, while Celestino crossed the line just a few paces behind at 16:55.

Brianne King notched her best race of the season (17:01 minutes), placing 16th and only a couple of seconds behind Brundidge and Celestino.

Oak Harbor competes today in the Mount Baker Invitational, which is the largest high school race in Western Washington with 43 teams taking the field. Hodges said he expects both boys and girls to fare well at this race, which starts at 10:30 a.m. at Silver Lake Park in Maple Falls.