The pace from here, boys and girls, jumps up a notch.
Sequim's cross country squads showed they might be peaking at the perfect time, however, speeding past Port Angeles and North Mason at Robin Hill Farm Park Oct. 15 in the final regular league meet of the season.
For the Wolves, it wasn't easy, at least on the boys' side. Led by senior Kenny Russell, Sequim placed seven runners in the top 11 spots to edge P.A.'s Roughriders by a single point.
Russell legged out the hilly course in 16 minutes, 5.7 seconds, a second better than Roughrider senior Brad Garrett and four seconds better than P.A. junior John Christian.
Sequim's Ben Ohnstad was fourth, about 40 seconds behind the lead pack, while Colby Robb, Tyler Wilson-Walters, Alex Jenkins, Alex Clifford and varsity newbie Ricky Amundson swept places 7-11.
Sequim's 29 points edged P.A's 30 while North Mason trailed far behind at 85 points.
But Port Angeles had two of its top five runners out of the race, and Sequim coach Harold Huff knows it's going to be tough for Sequim's boys to knock off their region rivals at the Olympic League finals Thursday afternoon.
"They weren't at full strength," Huff said of the Roughriders. With North Kitsap the heavy favorite, Sequim and Port Angeles are likely to fight it out for second and third. "That's not going to happen when the other two kids run (at league). It puts a lot of pressure on Colby and (Wilson-Walters). They have to catch up and beat the No. 4 man and they know that. We're going to work on it."
On the girls' side, Sequim state 2A title hopeful Alli Cutting made big strides toward catching up with defending 2A champ Ruby Roberts of Kingston. After asthma problems hampered the
Sequim junior two weeks ago in
Sequim's match-up with Kingston, Cutting raced strong last week, even if she wasn't being pushed.
Jumping to an early lead, Cutting said she was racing against the time Roberts posted on the course two weeks back (18:16). Cutting cut that down with a blistering 17:50 finish. Former Sequim assistant Chad Lee noted that Cutting's time topped one that Sequim grad Stephanie Marcy, a former 2A state cross country champion herself, posted in Port Angeles two years ago at the same point in the season.
The rest of the Sequim girls crew represented well, taking five of the next seven places. Audrey Lichten (19:12) and Laura Moser (19:25) went 2-3, while Christina Bruce (20:32) was fifth, Zoei Zbaraschuk (21:00) was sixth and Alyssa Stratton (22:32) took eighth.
The times were big improvements compared to two weeks ago, when an illness hindered the Wolves and they finished behind both North Kitsap and Kingston. Cutting improved by more than a minute while Lichten (23 seconds), Moser (28 seconds), Bruce (1:04) and Stratton (45 seconds) each bettered their times significantly.
"We were a little disappointed after that (Kingston) meet," Huff said. "The girls are just where we want them; they're starting to peak."
Sequim's 17 points blew away Port Angeles at 41 points, while North Mason didn't field a minimum of five runners.
In the boys' junior varsity race, Sequim runners posted a strong showing, taking places 2-5 and scoring 22 team points, far ahead of Port Angeles (65 points). Drake Apablasa led Sequim with a 18:30 finish, followed closely by Jacob Sisco in third (18:31) and Joel Christopher (18:32).
Though the league meet doesn't determine much in the postseason - Sequim runners are keying in on the district meet a week later - Thursday's league race is a good measuring stick for the Wolves. Some of the top cross country teams and runners in the state will be there, including the No. 5 (Sequim) and No. 6 (Kingston) teams in the 2A classification and No. 2 (North Kitsap) team in the 3A girls ranks, plus the 3A boys' No. 8 team in North Kitsap.
"I really think the girls have a chance to win," Huff said of his Wolves. "Our four-through-six runners are going to have to have great races. Alli has a good chance to win the race."
"Realistically, it will be difficult for Sequim or P.A. to beat North Kitsap (boys)," Huff said. "They're certainly the favorite in the race (but) second place is up for grabs. I think definitely we're going to be in the hunt for second and third. Our league is so top heavy with good runners it will really be a competitive race ... in both races."