Luke Schilter wasn’t letting this race get away from him.
For the past three state high school cross country races, Schilter had finished second each time — including last year’s race while suffering from the flu.
So on Saturday, at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, the Northwest Christian senior shot out from the starting line to take a lead in the boys 1B-2B race that he would never surrender en route to his first state title win with a time of 15 minutes, 56.40 seconds.
Schilter was the pre-race favorite, thanks to defending champion Kenneth Rooks of College Place moving up to Class 1A this year.
But winning wasn’t easy, as Schilter fell twice out on the course. Each time, though, his lead was big enough that no one could catch him.
After the race, Schilter collapsed in the runners’ post-race corral.
Even when other runners tried to get him to stand up, Schilter couldn’t. He was spent, and his hands were glued to his knees.
Numerous athletes coming in well after Schilter asked him “did you win?”
When he answered affirmatively, they would pat him on the back or say “That’s good, man!”
For Schilter, the win was redemptive.
“I’m glad I did this my senior year and not my sophomore year,” he said. “My time wasn’t very fast. And I’m tired because it’s so cold (45 degrees). My legs kept locking up.”
But he was confident he could win.
“I put in the work,” he said. “I knew that I wanted it more than anybody else did.”
Schilter said he started getting distance between him and the field at about the 1.5-mile mark.
“But it wasn’t until the final two hills coming down to the finish line did I think I had it,” he said.
Navigators head coach Larry Weber was ecstatic for Schilter.
“He ran well,” said Weber. “He wanted to win. But he’s a pretty grounded young man. Had he not won, he’d be OK.”
Schilter’s first-place finish helped his team win the team title with 64 points — 26 points ahead of second-place Liberty Bell.
It helped that teammates Corban Phillips, Garrett McSheffrey, Noah Phillips and Stephen Epp all finished somewhere between 13th and 19th place in the team points race.
Meanwhile, the Northwest Christian girls finished second as a team in the 1B-2B race, scoring 64 points but well behind Liberty Bell, which won with 24 points.
The second-place finish was one place better than last year. Before that, the Navigators had won nine consecutive state titles.
Juniors Ellie Summers (19:30.4) and Megan McSheffrey (19:41.1) led the way, finishing fourth and fifth respectively in a dense fog.
“It was kind of hard,” said Summers. “It went really fast. You can’t see where everyone was in the fog.”
Summers said she could only see 50 to 75 yards ahead of her, but she said the team stuck to its game plan.
Freshman Novie McCabe of Liberty Bell won the race in 18:51.9.
In the 4A girls race, Olympia’s Kiersten Kimminau, a senior, who transferred from Northwest Christian last year, took 29th (19:18.4).
North Thurston’s Tommy Johnson was the top local finisher in the 3A boys race. He took 30th (16:28.3). Bella Torres (35th, 19:42.1) and Naomi Reyes (43rd, 19:52.0) led Capital’s team in the 3A girls race.
After winning a district title last week, Tumwater’s Evan Groat (11th, 16:24.1) was the top local finisher in the 2A boys race.
For the second consecutive season, Black Hills’ Ava Shackell, a sophomore, led the area in the 2A girls race. She finished 25th in 19:59.
Staff writer Lauren Smith contributed to this report