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Cross country: Cloud nine for Sequim running squad

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What a difference a year makes.

After falling short of team berths to districts in back-to-back seasons, Sequim's boys cross country squad made a big leap this fall, culminating in a ninth-place finish at the class 2A state meet at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco on Saturday afternoon.

Led by senior Adrian Clifford and a slew of underclassmen, the Wolves topped each of the teams from the West Central District to their top-10 finish — their best in more than a decade — and just missed the medal stand by a single place.

"That was the best-case scenario," Sequim coach Harold Huff said following the meet. "I think that was the best they could have placed, no matter what, looking at everybody else and the competition level."

While teams from Bellingham were ruling the meet — Sehome, Bellingham and Squalicum went 1-2-3 — Sequim runners went out with a steady pace and picked off dozens of runners by the finish, outpacing district champ Sumner, league rival Kingston and perennial powerhouse Lindbergh. Just a week prior, Sequim placed fourth at districts.

"That's what blew me away," Huff said.

"The kids started within themselves; they didn't get caught up in the first mile (by going) too fast," he said.

Clifford, racing at state for the second time and the only Wolf to compete at this level, improved his place from 2011 from 60th to 35th, and his time from 17:03 to 16:39. After placing fifth at districts, Clifford wound up the second-best runner from that region, just 17 seconds behind Mohamud Abdi of Lindbergh.

"Adrian probably had his best race of his career," Huff said.

It was youth, however, that bolstered the Wolves at state. Sophomore Peter Ohnstad was 54th (17:00), freshman C.J. Daniels was 65th (17:06), sophomore Mikey Cobb was 70th (17:10) and freshmen Chris Jeffko and Jackson Oliver (110th, 17:59.0 and 115th, 18:06.1) along with junior Dylan Chatters (117th, 18:10), fueled Sequim's finish.

"At that level, every race is faster and faster because there are better and better kids," Huff said. "The three freshman in particular … are really race-savvy. I'd been happy if they were juniors and seniors."

The best may yet lie ahead for Sequim's runners, with all but Clifford set to return next fall. No other team at the class 2A state meet saw five underclassmen (freshmen and sophomores) compete.

"They were such a fun team, like peas in a pod," Huff said. "If they do their summer homework, the six returning … guys, they're going to be an impressive outfit."

Huff said that though Sequim's girls squad didn't qualify past the district meet, they have some up-and-coming talent, too.

"I think the girls team is only one or two runners away from maybe challenging for a state spot," he said.

Other winners

It's good to be a Mariner runner, it seems.

While Sehome's boys were edging crosstown rival Bellingham for the 2A boys' title, Sehome's girls crushed the competition — including runner-up Bellingham's Red Raiders — by placing all five scoring runners in the top 20 to easily win the Washington state 2A cross country championship. Sehome's girls tallied 40 team points, while Bellingham was second with 118 and Capital was third (122). Olympic League power North Kitsap was fourth and Port Angeles placed 13th. 

Kyle Tupper of Port Angeles, the West Central District 2A champ, had a bout with an illness and placed 125th overall.

Central Valley won the boys' 4A state title while Camas, led by individual champ Alexa Efraimson, won the girls title. Efraimson, a sophomore, won the crown by more than 35 seconds. Andrew Gardner of Mead won the boys' individual title.

In the 3A ranks, North Central cruised to a boys' title while Seattle Prep junior Joe Hardy won individual honors. On the girls' side, Glacier Peak was no match for the rest of the competition; led by state champ Amy-Eloise Neale, Glacier Peak outdistanced second place Kamiakin by 75 points.

In 1A races, Charles Wright Academy took the boys' title while Mount Baker senior Dillon Quintana edged Blaine's Tom Bradley for the individual title. Port Townsend's Xavier Frank was 36th. Riverside took the girls' crown and Cedar Park Christian's Sally Larson won individual honors. Port Townsend senior Brittany Grant placed 38th.

Tri-Cities Prep won the class B boys' championship while Northwest Christian-Lacey took the girls' title.

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