PASCO — Even dynasties — or especially dynasties, perhaps — have their anxious moments.
Northwest Christian junior Anna Brooks had just finished one test of endurance, conquering the 5 kilometers of deceptively steep hills that make up the rolling landscape of the cross-country raceway at Sun Willows Golf Course, and moved on to the next test: waiting.
“I just wanna know if we won,” Brooks said, squeezing herself inside a flannel shirt borrowed from her younger brother, Anthony, in the teeth-clicking chill of a brisk morning wind. “I’m not too exhausted. I’m nervous.”
It would be more than an hour before Brooks and her teammates and coaches received the happy, historic news. The Navigators captured their eighth consecutive Class 1B/2B girls state cross-country championship, holding off Ocosta, 45-95.
No other girls cross-country team in any classification has won more than eight consecutive titles in state history.
Not bad for a program that graduated five of its top six runners last spring.
“I thought, ‘How can we do this?’ ” Navigators coach Larry Weber said. “No one has ever come back and won a title after losing that many runners.”
What graduation took from NWC, tradition and the fearlessness of youth replaced. In addition to a strong race from Brooks, who finished fourth in 19 minutes, 32.64 seconds, the Navigators were buoyed by freshman Kiersten Kimminau, who had defending state champion Sierra Speiker of Oroville in her cross hairs but settled for third place. Speiker won in 18:20.41.
“I kind of had high expectations for myself,” said Kimminau, who ran the course in 19:23.35. “But those hills were tough. Just one after another.”
Kind of like all those state titles NWC continues to stack.
“It’s kind of nerve-racking living up to that expectation,” Kimminau said. “But it’s also kind of special.”
Midway through the race, Brooks said a spectator yelled at her to slow down.
“ ‘You’re all going to win, anyways,’ ” she recalled the fan saying.
“It was kind of a slap in the face,” Brooks said. “It motivated me to run harder to solidify our chances.”
Lina Hoffman (21:31.49), Abby McSheffrey (21:37.19) and Hannah Gabel (21:40.84) finished 13-14-15 for team scoring purposes to round out NWC’s championship effort.
Of the Navigators’ top five state placers Saturday, all but Gabel will be back in 2014.
MILESTONES FOR PIERSON, CAPITAL
With junior Lauren Pierson blazing to a fifth-place finish (18:43.45) and a strong performance by its second and third runners, Capital managed to do something no other Cougars squad had done at state: score under 100 points.
And to think coach Kevin Wright called it an “off day.”
“We were trying to avenge a close loss to Bellingham last year,” said Wright, whose squad was 11 points behind second-place Bellingham (88) and well off Sehome’s 2A championship haul (31). “Our No. 5 runner (Sophia McLain) has pneumonia. Both of our seniors (Hannah Hartman, Nicole Hartman) have been sick. Sometimes, it (works out).”
“Some of us had a good race, others weren’t as excited,” said Pierson, who improved five places — and almost 43 seconds — over her 10th-place state effort in 2012. “I’m excited to see what we can do next year.”
OLYMPIA DUO MAKES TOP 10
Sofia Kane was tempted in October to hurry back from a hip injury, but she chose instead to have a slow convalescence.
Her patience paid off when the Olympia senior took seventh overall at state.
“I’m glad I didn’t push too hard with my hip at the beginning of the season,” said Kane, who finished in 18:12.52. “I finished strong today, and I can get right into training for track.”
In the boys race, Olympia junior Peter Kesting was seventh in 15:26.97 — and stayed close to Gig Harbor’s nationally ranked elite trio of Logan Carroll, Wolfgang Beck and Tristan Peloquin well into the race’s final mile.
Olympia junior Ben Gilvar Parke was 24th in 15:56.05.