Three summers ago, prior to the start of his freshman year at Capital High School, Ben Monk decided he would turn out for a fall sport.
He didn’t know which sport he would select, but he was sure of two things – neither football nor tennis was something he wanted to participate in, leaving Monk with few remaining options.
Almost by default he landed on cross country.
It was a perfect match.
“I did track in middle school,” Monk said, “but I knew absolutely nothing about cross country. So, I thought I would just give it a try. The first time I got out there on a course, though, I fell in love with it. It was exactly what I was looking for.”
Monk enters his senior season as one of the area’s best after placing 17th at the Class 2A state meet last fall.
“I could tell he had the potential to be successful the first time I saw him run as a freshman,” Capital cross-country coach Jerry Miller said. “He’s
someone who can definitely run at the college level next year. He’s just all heart and dedication.”
Those two characteristics are essential in a sport like cross country because you’re not just competing against distance and other runners, but against the course and the elements.
“The weather, the hills, the different courses,” Monk said, “It’s what makes this sport so great.”
Monk set a personal best for 5 kilometers at the 2A state meet in 2012, finishing in 16 minutes, 7.4 seconds – less than seven seconds shy of cracking the top 10.
Additional junior highlights included a fifth-place finish at the District IV championships, a third-place showing at the Evergreen Conference meet and a fourth-place effort at the prestigious Curtis Invitational.
Sidelined since late August because of an injured knee, Monk made his season debut Wednesday in a three-way 2A Evergreen Conference meet with River Ridge and W.F. West.
Monk’s injury occurred when he fought a losing battle with a sprinkler.
“It happened during a run. I did even see the sprinkler, just tripped right over it,” Monk said. “Luckily, I landed on my knee and there wasn’t too much damage. I haven’t been able to run for a couple (of) weeks now. It’s still a little tender. I’m anxious to get back out there.”
Once he’s fully healthy, expect Monk to challenge for both the EvCo crown and a district title before heading off to state for a third consecutive year.
Monk was the only non-senior to finish in the top six at the EvCo meet last year, finishing third to winner Aberdeen’s Poli Baltazar and W.F. West’s Dallas Snider.
Also, Monk is the only returning runner to finish in the top seven at the district meet last year.
“Obviously, I would like to do better at the state meet this season,” Monk said. “Ultimately, what this sport is all about is every runner versus the course. You compete against other runners for time, but it’s just all of us taking on the course.
“I think that’s why cross country has such a supportive atmosphere. All the runners, regardless of what school they are from, are out there pushing each other because we are all trying to accomplish the same goal – finish the course in the best time we can.”
Said Miller: “I think he’s going to have an outstanding season.
“We just have to make sure to keep him away from sprinklers.”
PREP CROSS-COUNTRY PRIMER
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Win, and they will turn out at Capital. The Cougars girls have a record 36 runners this season after finishing third at the Class 2A state cross-country championships last fall, the highest placing in program history. Capital has sent a girls team to state for 13 consecutive seasons and Cougars coach Kevin Wright said he believes this is one of his strongest teams. Freshman Kat Copeland ran the second-fastest time at last weekend’s Capital Invitational (14 minutes, 33.07 seconds), second to teammate Lauren Pierson (14:14.66), a junior. … Northwest Christian has won the past seven 2B state girls team titles, and, while the Navigators graduated five of their six top runners from last year’s championship squad, they’ll look to Anna Brooks (fifth place in 2012) to keep their state title streak alive. … The bulk of Olympia’s talent on the boys team lies in the junior class, paced by Peter Kesting and Ben Gilvar-Parke from a Bears team that placed fifth at the 4A state meet last fall. … Four South Sound teams are ranked in the latest statewide poll of cross-country coaches. Olympia boys are sixth in 4A, Capital girls are fourth in 2A and Northwest Christian girls and boys are second and fourth, respectively, in 2B.
RUNNERS TO WATCH
Peter Kesting, Olympia, jr.
Cody Williamson, Shelton, sr.
Ben Monk, Capital, sr.
James Jasperson, North Thurston, sr.
Brent Knutzen, Tumwater, sr.
Sofia Kane, Olympia, sr.
Lauren Pierson, Capital, jr.
Hallie Whitley, North Thurston, sr.
Anna Brooks, Northwest Christian, jr.
Kat Copeland, Capital, fr.