Cross Country: CK girls qualify for 4A districts

STEILACOOM — The Narrows League probably isn’t considered the best league in the state in most sports. While several of its teams are perennial contenders depending on the sport, there is one sport that the league is certainly the toughest for: Cross country.

With Bellarmine, Gig Harbor, Capital and Olympia among the teams vying for state placements year-in and year-out, it’s no small accomplishment to get through the Narrows League Tournament and on to the West Central District race.

This year proved no different, making CK’s eighth-place girls team finish all the more special.

“That was super,” Central Kitsap coach John Emery said. “That was really good. Out of that group, five of them PR’d at the dame time. I thought, ‘That was good, they were focused.’”

With the top eight teams and top 40 finishers moving on to the WCD race, Central Kitsap and Olympic knew a daunting task was before them.

But CK landed a seventh-place team finish with 212 points on the girls side. For the boys, Cougar Cascade Herriott will be the love representative, after teammate Tyler McFarland finished 41st, one spot out. Herriott took 27th with a time of 17 minutes, 25 seconds.

Olympia’s Ben Dear was crowned Narrows League king, finishing in 15:59, while Bellarmine’s Nicole Cochran took first for the girls in 18:16. Gig Harbor swept the boys and girls team titles, with 59 and 33 points respectively.

For Olympic, Annika Turner will head to districts alone, thanks to a 33rd-place run in 21:22. Dane Bargerstock just missed for the boys, finishing 49th in 17:56.

Both teams agreed that anyone moving on should feel proud, given the stiff competition in the league.

“It is the toughest,” Emery said. “For them to get where they did, we’ve really got a good chance to do well at districts. I know I’m focused on it.”

“This is the best league in the state,” Olympic coach Greg Chapman added. “This is almost like state, with the quality of teams. You have to know that you don’t run from the rear in a race like this. This is the best of the best.”

CK’s boys just missed, finishing ninth as a team with 271 points. Oly came in 11th with 323 points. Oly’s girls took 14th with 347 points.

For those moving on, a mix of excitement and seriousness began taking over.

“I’m really glad I made it,” Turner said. “I thought I was pretty close. I thought I could’ve done better, but I feel good. I had people yelling numbers at me so I knew I would be in it. I felt good about that race. I’m just disappointed others on the team didn’t make it.”

“It feels good. It always does to place,” Herriott said. “I was going to try to get under the top 40. I got that. Time-wise, I was pretty close to my goal.”

Although he didn’t make it, Bargerstock said the race still showed the strides the team made this season.

“It feels a lot better than last year,” he said. “We’ve improved all our times this year. Our coaches are really good with working with us and really supporting us. I think we’re all getting a little faster. We’re getting to where we’re running together as a team.”

Looking forward to districts, Turner said she expects nothing to come easily.

“I think it’s good to be challenged and know that you can beat people but there’s still people ahead,” she said. “It’s good to know that we have a young team and more coming up.”

While the team couldn’t get more runners in, Chapman still said he was proud of everyone for doing their best, and lowering some of their times in the process.

“I think they ran hard and learned a lot,’ Chapman said. “Now if they’re disappointed, now they no what they need to work on.”

Emery said he wished McFarland had made the cut, but is still happy with the core of the Cougar team moving on.

“He was upset with himself,” Emery said of McFarland. “But that’s the way life is sometimes. We’ll change our strategy a little bit. Nothing drastic. We’ll concentrate a lot on being very focused on the district race so we can go on to state.”

The West Central District race, dubbed the Westside Classic, will happen Saturday with the first races at the Class 1A/B levels starting at 10:50 a.m. at American Lake Golf Course in Steilacoom.

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