A pair of seniors were the top finishers from Thurston County schools at the massive, 80-school, Fort Steilacoom Invitational cross country meet Saturday.
Tumwater senior Joseph Morrissey finished 32nd in the boys varsity gold division, covering the 5,000-meter course in 16 minutes, 26.5 seconds, three spots ahead of Northwest Christian’s Noah Phillips, who was timed in 16:34.3. Phillips’ Navigators teammate Ellie Summers was the top local girl, finishing 21st in the girls varsity gold division in 19:57.
Tumwater was the lone local school to record a team score in the gold division, with the girls finishing in 12th place and the boys in 15th. A year ago, the Thunderbirds ran in the silver division.
“For racing in the gold division, they did quite well,” Tumwater assistant coach Lindsay Andersen said. “They stayed together, which I am super proud of.”
The T-Bird boys top five ran within 1:45 of each other while the girls pack was only separated by 1:53.
Tumwater’s other male finishers were senior Ryan Knight (17:50.9), junior Carson Greenwell (17:57.2), junior Coe Johnson (18:10), junior John Ericks (18:10.4), sophomore Josh Newman (18:14.4) and senior Chad Stancil (18:17.7).
Northwest Christian, a perennial state power, was paced by younger runners on the boys side. After Phillips, followed sophomore Garrett McSheffrey (16:38), sophomore Cameron Neilsen (17:52.2), junior Hamilton Summers (17:59.2) and junior Tony Dominguez (18:42.4).
“It’s a good solid young group,” Navigators coach Mike Michael said. “We’ve got the three sophomores, plus a group of five freshmen battling a couple of seniors for the fifth spot.”
Lincoln senior James Mwaura, the defending Class 4A state champion, broke his own meet record, finishing the boys varsity gold race in 15:03, nearly five seconds quicker than his mark of 15:07.7, set in last year’s meet. Central Valley captured the boys team title with 66 points with Lewis & Clark placing second with 75.
On the girls side, Michael believes he’s found a third mainstay to go with seniors Summers and Megan McSheffrey, who finished in the top half of the field at 20:44.6 despite feeling ill midway through the race. Right behind McSheffrey was Ava Shackell (20:48.5), a junior transfer from Black Hills.
“Ava did a great job closing the gap on Megan. She’s kind of found herself,” Michael said. “She came in thinking she was third on the team. I’ve tried to convince her, ‘You don’t have to think of yourself as third, go out and compete with them,’ and she did.”
For the T-Birds, Hannah Reynolds was the top female finisher at 50th in 21:01.2 while promising freshman Preslie Bryant was clocked in 21:42.
Issaquah claimed the girls team title behind freshman winner Julia David-Smith (18:04.9).
Both Tumwater and Northwest Christian stepped up to face predominantly larger schools and came away seeing positives.
“We’ve got high hopes working toward state,” Andersen said. “There’s a long way to go, but so far we’re pleased with where we are.”