A new era begins with a pair of familiar coaches.
Runners with this fall’s Sequim High cross country squad look to put the Wolves back in the postseason after putting both boys and girls teams into districts last season, and they’ll do it for the first time in 17 years without head coach Harold Huff.
Taking the reigns for the Wolves are head coach Paul Brinkman and assistant B.J. Schade, both of whom are assistants with the SHS track team.
That familiarity, Schade said, should help ease the transition in the team’s coaching staff. That, and a little less mileage per week than in previous seasons.
“We’re trying to make (the sport) a little more accessible,” Schade said, noting some of the runners — wrestler Zachery Koch, as an example — may use the running to prep for other sports.
“We try to have something for everybody,” Schade said.
Sequim sees more than a dozen athletes from the combined squads return from last year’s squad, but the boys face a rather tough prospect of replacing their top three runners. Gone via graduation are Murray Bingham, the Olympic League camp who placed third at districts and 13th at the state 2A meet, as well as Liam Byrne (22nd at districts, 78th at state), Jazen Bartee (42nd at districts, 113rd at state), and district qualifiers Alec Shingleton, Jakob Pyeatt and Fischer Jensen.
Back is sophomore Koda Robinson, who as Sequim’s only non-senior at districts placed 58th overall and ran a season 5k-best 18:39 at the league championship meet.
Also back is senior Carson Holt, who placed 20th in the JV league finals (19:53), as well as Darren Salazar, a state 2A track and field qualifier (sprints) who had a personal-best 20:47 at the league JV race.
Helping bolster this year is Eli Gish, a newcomer in name only. Gish ran for the Wolves as a freshman in 2017, clocking a personal best 17:56 5k to place 20th at the Olympic League meet and ran nearly as fast at the state 2A meet later that year.
Added to the mix is junior Logan Laxson, a sprinter for the Wolves track and field team who competed in two relays at the 2A state finals in May.
Sequim’s girls lose some depth with four regulars not returning for 2019, but running ace Riley Pyeatt and five other Wolves who posted strong times last fall are back in the mix.
Pyeatt, another sprinter in the spring who transitions to longer distances in the fall, placed fifth at the 2018 league meet, fourth at districts (with a personal-best 91:31) and 13th at the state 2A finals as a freshman.
Back in the fold is junior Jessica German, who clocked in 28th at the league meet last fall in a personal-best 23:26, as well as senior Emily Silva and sophomores Aidyn Shingleton and Katelyn Glass. Newcomer Anastasia Updike joins the squad, one of Sequim Middle School’stop runners in 2018.
”I think we’ll be competitive,” Schade said.
Sequim opens the season with the 10-team Eagle Jamboree at Klahowya Secondary School on Sept. 11, where they’ll see league foes Port Angeles, North Kitsap, North Mason, Kingston and Bremerton, as well as non-league foes from Forks, Central Kitsap and the host Eagles.
The Wolves then have three meets on the peninsula, with home meets on Sept. 18 (vs. Olympic, Port Townsend) and Sept. 25 (vs. Port Angeles, North Kitsap) at Robin Hill County Park, and the Salt Creek Invitational just west of Port Angeles in between, on Sept. 21.
Last fall, Port Angeles dominated the girls dominated the Olympic League behind league champ Lauren Larson, now a junior. On the boys’ side, North Kitsap edged Kingston at the league final and potentially return their top seven runners from 2018.