Cross country runners begin championship season

The Narrows League cross country season has, in many ways, been an exercise in frustration for many of the coaches and runners who came over from the old Olympic League.

“It’s first year growing pains I hope,” Olympic High coach Bill Stolp said. “There’s been a lot of confusion over who’s in charge and who’s responsible for certain things.”

Most of the problems seemed to revolve around what Central Kitsap coach Mark Ward called “the truly old guard of the Narrows League,” referring to certain Tacoma schools who don’t make a serious commitment to cross country.

“The organization and commitment is very different from what we’ve been used to in the Olympic League,” said Ward, pointing out that some Tacoma schools don’t have enough runners to field full teams.

Stolp pointed to the inconsistency in scoring meets. “Some were three-way or four-way meets, and some were double-duals, and they were all scored differently,” he said. “That led to a lot of confusion.”

“We went against one team and never received results,” Ward said. “They said they’d fax them to us the next day and they did, but they had no names. It just listed the places and times all the way down. In the Olympic League, we never left a meet without having the full results in our hands.”

Hopefully, the road will be smoother from here on out, beginning with today’s Narrows League meet over the 3.1-mile course at Fort Steilacoom Park, a meet that originally was scheduled for Kitsap Golf & Country Club. The top eight boys and girls teams and 40 individual runners will advance to the Class 4A West Central District meet on Wednesday, Oct. 24, at Tumwater Golf & Country Club.

It’ll be a major upset if Central’s girls don’t make it to district. The Cougars’ top three runners — sophomores Kim Reiland and Crystal Lundahl and junior Jannel Emery — are are state-meet veterans.

Ward’s not sure how to read how they’ll do.

“It depends on whose ‘A’ race is there, and who’s ‘A’ race isn’t there,” he said. “Based on results, I’d have to say (Olympic’s) Megan Walker-Richard and (Bremerton’s) Lin Kuhlman are probably a few steps ahead of Kim, but if she runs physically and mentally strong, she can be right there. We’re hoping we can close the gap with the championship season coming.”

Reiland was at state a year ago, helping the Cougars to a 10th-place team finish.

Olympic High will be led by senior Walker-Richard, who was 20th at state a year ago.

“Megan’s been running well, but she will have more than her hands full (today),” Stolp said, noting she’ll be up against Olympia’s Jessica McLaughlin, a two-time state mile champion who placed third in the 2000 state cross country meet. Gig Harbor’s Erin Deasy is another elite runner, along with Bremerton’s Kuhlman, who is only a sophomore.

Teammwise, Stolp’s hopeful his girls will crack the top eight. Besides Walker-Richard, seniors Heather McColl, Jordan Keller and Carly Wilson will be competing for the Trojans.

Junior Dan Frederick, 69th at state a year ago, is Olympic’s top boys runner. Seniors Ron Yeager and Troy Thoman are the No. 2 and 3 runners for the Trojans.

“There’s probably five or six boys teams vying for spots seven and eight,” Stolp said. “It’ll be an interesting day. I’m looking forward to it.”

Like Stolp,Ward’s not sure what to expect from his boys team.

“On paper, I’ve got the boys anywhere from fifth to 10th,” Ward said. “If we get a break, we could either qualify the entire boys team for district or there’s an outside chance we might not get one individual.

“We don’t have one dominant runner. We have truly five guys who will come in within a minute and a minute and a half of each other. It’ll just depend on whether they’re far enough up in the pack.”

Seniors Aaron Nadeau and Patrick Hunley, sophomores Alex Eddington and Tyler Start and freshman Luke Reichle figure to be CK’s point producers.

“I have no idea what to expect,” Ward said. “That kind of makes it fun.”

Bremerton’s boys will be led by junior Joe Miller, who was 24th at last year’s district meet and 60th at state.

Klahowya’s boys are considered the team to beat at Saturday’s Nisqually League meet at Fort Worden in Port Townsend. The Eagles were unbeaten in league meets and also won their first invitational — at King’s West on Oct. 6 — this season.

Senior Chris Swanson and four freshman — Kyle Ryan, Cameron Gaskill, Jason Hippe and Casey Masters — have been getting the job done for the Eagles.

Freshman Rosie Meeker has been the standout for the Eagles’ girls team. Coach Marty Krafcik Jr., said Meeker has an excellent chance to advance to state, and sophomore Mary Moore also has a shot.

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