LAKEWOOD – Olympia’s boys cross-country team arrived at the Fort Steilacoom Invitational with a goal. It departed as its champion.
“That was the goal – to win it,” said sixth-year coach Jesse Stevick. “Rarely in races do I check out the competition beforehand, but (some of the runners) looked at it and they knew it was a possibility.”
Making the win especially sweet was the sheer number of runners – more than 2,000 participated in Saturday’s 5k meet, up from about 1,400 last year.
“It’s definitely the largest invite that we’ve won or placed high in since I’ve been coaching,” Stevick said.
The Bears were buoyed by sophomore Peter Kesting’s fifth-place finish (15 minutes, 51.0 seconds), and senior Nate Van Haitsma, who was seventh (16:00.1).
“Having two guys up there, in fifth and seventh place, was huge for the scoring,” Stevick said, adding that both are leaders on the team. “It’s a great culture they’ve established. … They’re seeing that hard work pays off.”
Snohomish won the girls competition, while Capital was runner-up.
In the individual standings, Olympia junior Sofia Kane placed second behind Mount Rainier junior Jordan McPhee.
McPhee, who set a course record at Fort Steilacoom last year at the South Puget Sound League meet, finished in 18:50.6, seven seconds ahead of Kane. Still, she said she had hoped to run faster this time.
“I had to push through the last mile,” the defending Class 4A state champion said. “It was just desire. I saw (Kane) there and I wasn’t about to let it go.”
Kane said she was pleasantly surprised to be able to stick close to McPhee.
“That surprised me,” she said. “I’m used to her being untouchable. I wish I had tried harder to stick with her, but it’s nice having someone in front of you because it shows you can always be working harder.”
Shadle Park junior Nicholas Hauger won the boys race in 15:41.7 – despite not being able to check out the entire course the day before. The Spokane group got lost trying to find Fort Steilacoom Park.
“I honestly didn’t know how I was going to do today,” he said, adding that he was just aiming to finish in the top 10.
“I got a good start … and then I was flying down the hills. The hills did it.”
Dallas Snider of W.F. West (15:46.3) and Mohamud Abdi of Lindbergh (15:46.8) rounded out the top three fro the boys. Rose Christen of Central Kitsap (19:05.8) placed third for the girls.