The Olympic League’s cross country final offered few surprises, as senior stalwarts Riley Pyeatt of Sequim and junior Jack Gladfelter of Port Angeles raced to big division wins on a gusty 5,000-meter course at The Cedars at Dungeness golf course on Oct. 21.
Led by Pyeatt and third-place finisher Colby Ellefson, both of Sequim’s teams qualified to race at the West Central District meet on Oct. 30.
Undefeated in league meets this season, Pyeatt stuck to her game plan — jump out to a lead early — and cruised to a win in 18 minutes and 37 seconds, about 26 seconds faster than second place Eden Michael of Bainbridge.
The wind was a little challenging, Pyeatt said, but a fast first mile (5:30 or so) spelled an easy win for the SHS ace.
“I wanted to pull out a good time and have fun while I’m doing it,” Pyeatt said.
“It was so awesome to hear people cheering (my) name; I’d like to reciprocate.”
Pyeatt finished second at last year’s league meet but didn’t get a chance to race any further, as all postseason races past the league final were canceled because of COVID concerns. She placed 13th at state as a freshman and sixth as a sophomore.
Pyeatt said she plan a similar strategy at districts this coming Saturday: take the lead right at the outset and hold on.
“If someone comes out with me, that’s fine; I haven’t had someone run with me all season.”
Sophomore Kaitlin Bloomenrader boosted Sequim with a seventh place finish (20:55), as the Wolves placed fourth overall (87 team points) behind Bainbridge (34), North Kitsap (59) and North Mason (84).
Sequim assistant coach B.J. Schade said Bloomenrader, as she has at previous meets, went out a bit too fast initially, but that “I like that confidence.”
The Wolves also got solid finishes from Aidyn Shingleton (24th, 23:26), Anastasia Updike (29th, 23:55), Nikoline Updike (40th, a personal best 24:45) and Mia Kirner (44th, a personal best 24:53).
Ellefson kept pace with the lead pack and wound up battling Bainbridge’s Alex Miller for second and third, getting edged by the senior Spartan by about five seconds (16:35 to 16:40) in the final stretch.
Gladfelter won the boys’ race in 16:25.
“It’s a pretty good course (but) the wind was definitely hard,” Ellefson, the Sequim sophomore, said.
“Third place for a sophomore is pretty good,” Schade said of Ellefson’s finish.
With a solid time at districts Ellefson has a shot to compete at the state 2A final for the first time. Ellefson admitted he prefers the flatter courses to hilly ones like Pasco’s.
“I don’t quite know how to race the hills,” he said, but felt that he could gauge where to be by running with familiar Olympic League competitors.
Schade said he was impressed with Sequim’s boys, who earned a district spot after finishing in the top four of the league’s competing 2A schools. Port Angeles won the league team title Thursday with 38 points, followed by Kingston (65), North Kitsap (72), 3A Bainbridge (74) and Sequim (148).
“(The Sequim boys) had a strong race,” Schade said. “All those kids are coming back (next season). The talent was there; they just didn’t have the miles.”
The Sequim assistant said he was impressed particularly with Owen Randall’s race; the SHS junior clocked in the 5K in 18:39, a 27-second personal best.
“He really helped solidify us,” Schade said.
Calem Klinger was battling a sickness, Schade said, but still managed to finish 33rd in 18:55.
Mirek Skov (37th, 19:17, a personal best) and Connor Goff (48th, 21:02) rounded out the Wolves’ scorers.
Schade said he and head coach Paul Brinkman will back off of the heavy work these last couple of weeks and focus on resting their athletes for the final season push.
The district meet is at Chambers Bay Regional Park on Oct. 30 and sees the top five teams and 35 individuals qualify for state.
The state meet on Nov. 6 sees boys and girls from 1B/2B, 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A vie for top spots at Sun Willows Golf Course.
Pyeatt, who was headed to Abilene Christian University (Texas) right after the league meet to explore the campus and work out with school runners as a prospective student, said the Pasco course isn’t her favorite. However, she noted, “it’s a good way to go out.”