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Willy leads the way for Cougs
"For most of her junior cross country season, Cathleen Willy's been running alone.Wednesday's Central Kitsap School District championship meet was no exception. Willy, a spindly Central Kitsap High School junior, sailed through the 2.4-mile Silverdale Stadium course in 14 minutes, 21 seconds, finishing a tidy 15 seconds ahead of runner-up Megan Walker-Richards of Olympic.Paced by Willy, CK won the girls championship with 24 points to Oly's 30. Klahowya runners also took part in the all-district scamper, but the Eagles didn't field a large enough squad to post a team score.Another Cougar junior, Patrick Hunley, won the boys race, clocking in at 12:43 on the same windswept course. But Oly's boys eked out the team title 28-33. Klahowya's boys were third with 75 points.The wind was Willy's stiffest challenge Wednesday, as she pulled away from Walker-Richards and CK teammate Kim Reiland (who eventually finished third) early and stretched out to a comfortable lead. Walker-Richards closed strongly, or the final margin would've been even larger.In league meets, Willy said, The biggest challenge is yourself. Today, I felt the need to do better than I did the last two times I ran this course.Mission accomplished. Despite the gusts that sometimes were at her back and sometimes in her face, Willy cut 30 seconds off the time she posted in a season-opening meet at the stadium back on Sept. 6.The time also laid waste to the 2-year-old course record of 14:32 set by Olympic's Haley Acre.Racing in duals is good practice, Willy said after the race, which saw CK runners finish fourth (Crystal Lundahl), seventh (Katie Trent) and 10th (Christina Willy, Cathleen's older sister) to wrap up the team title. It's shorter (than most), so you have to gain speed faster. You have to make a decision about when to surge. But generally, I find it's more competitive to race in invitationals.All the duals and invitationals, of course, lead up to the postseason, which begins Oct. 19 with the Olympic League championships at Kitsap Golf and Country Club. The Cougar girls, by virtue of their 8-0 dual-meet record, would have to be considered the favorites to defend the team title they won last year.We've been really preparing hard, Willy said of the postseason, which continues Oct. 25 with the West Central District meet at Lake Spanaway and concludes Nov. 4 with the state meet at Pasco. Since last year's we've shown some big improvement. It's not just physical, either - a lot of it's mental. You've got to believe it.Both the CK and Oly girls can take some confidence out of Wednesday's meet. The Cougs' 3-4 placements both came from freshmen, while Troy matched Central for top-10 finishers with five. Behind Walker-Richards, Julia Corbett was fifth, Heather McColl sixth, Brigit Iles eighth and Jordan Kessler ninth.Hunley's victory in the boys race was not so comfortable as Willy's. He finished five seconds ahead of Oly's Dan Frederick, with CK teammate Scott Eickmeyer in third. The Trojans' Christian Walker-Richards was the fourth runner to cross the line ahead of the 13-minute barrier, and three more Olympic runners - Ron Yeager sixth, Troy Thoman seventh and Matt James ninth - logged top-10 points. Aaron Nadeau (eighth) and Sean Adams (10th) were the Cougars' other top-10 finishers, and Chris Swanson put Klahowya on the board with a fifth-place finish in 13:08. "