Someday, when McKenzi Bravo is working for the United Nations, Katie Lynch is coaching national-level cheerleading and Sarah Manning is a six-time Sound to Narrows champion, perhaps the three of them will get together and reminisce about this year.
This could be the year they lead a breakthrough in Peninsula High School girls cross country.
The Seahawks have never won a state cross-country team title. Last year’s third-place finish in the Class 3A championships was the school’s best showing.
Bravo was the leader of that group, finishing 14th in the 5,000-meter race at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco by posting the team’s only sub-19-minute time (18:58.9).
Lynch, in her first year of distance running, placed 22nd in 19:18.9, which was not far behind graduated teammate Rebecca Paradis (17th).
Manning was the fourth Peninsula runner to finish the course in less than 20 minutes, posting a time of 19:57.1 to place 51st.
Although those times do not make them can’t-miss phenoms, considering how either young or inexperienced the Seahawks were last season, there is plenty of reason to think that those three runners will be well ahead of that pace at this year’s state meet, Nov. 3.
“Last year, we thought we had four or five kids good enough (to be at the state meet) – and the two newcomers (Lynch and Manning) made us really good, even though we were not quite at the level of Glacier Peak or Camas,” Peninsula coach Joel Wingard said. “This year, we feel we can really run with those kids.
“The top three (runners) understand what it takes, and the others have to learn.”
Bravo is the gritty racer who cares little about her times but shares plenty about her life aspirations.
Many around her think she will have a career in government or politics – which she says would be a good path for her.
She holds a 4.0 grade point average and is the president of the school’s Interact Club, which is an international-focused program of Rotary. Bravo also is a member of the Model United Nations, which is an academic simulation of the United Nations.
“I try and look at everything I do as a competition … so my goals in cross country are the same as for school and other extracurricular activities, and that is to be as successful as I can possibly be,” Bravo said. “I work really hard at balancing all of that out.”
Lynch and Manning often compete to be the team’s No. 2 finisher. Lynch is a former club gymnast who has the best pure speed of the group.
After Lynch gave up gymnastics, she thought she would try out for cheerleading last fall – but she signed up too late. A friend suggested cross country, which was completely new to Lynch.
“That first week, I was nervous and didn’t like it,” Lynch said. “I was tired and did not want to come back (to practice) the next day. But my teammates were welcoming and encouraging, and that kept me going.”
Last spring in track, Lynch broke the school’s 34-year-old record (set by Colleen Spadoni) in the 800, finishing in 2:18.
Then there’s Manning, who was a ninth-grader last year and took some time adjusting to high school. Nobody outworks her, teammates say.
“We all have big goals for this team,” Bravo said. “We’ve gotten even closer than before, and everyone gets along really well and pushes each other.
“It will be interesting to see how it plays out.”
AREA BOYS CROSS COUNTRY
Best state hopeful: Considering Charles Wright Academy had the 1A runner-up (David Goldstone) and third-place finisher (Ruben Riordan), finishing a distant fourth in the state as a team last season was a disappointment. The Tarriers have more high-quality depth this year, especially with Travis Hensley now a legitimate top-five runner.
Best runner: Gig Harbor’s Wolfgang Beck is smart and patient, and he is not the type of racer who will hammer the pace wire-to-wire. He was the top local finisher at last year’s 4A state meet (fifth in 15 minutes, 18.9 seconds).
Others to watch: Nehemiah Barrett, sr., Franklin Pierce; Logan Carroll, jr., Gig Harbor; Mason Fletcher, sr., Puyallup; David Goldstone, sr., Charles Wright Academy; Travis Hensley, sr., Charles Wright Academy; Peter Kesting, so., Olympia; Stephen Nelson, jr., Lakes; Michael Ottesen, sr., Puyallup; Tristan Peloquin, so., Gig Harbor; Ruben Riordan, sr., Charles Wright Academy; Dallas Snider, sr., W.F. West; Cody Williamson, jr., Shelton.
AREA GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY
Best state hopeful: Tahoma returned the 4A title to the West Central District last season for the first time since 2007. The Bears have a great chance of repeating with their fantastic trio of Abby Atchison, Elizabeth Oosterhout and Delaney Tiernan, all of whom finished in the top 25 at the state meet last season.
Best runner: What can you say about Mount Rainier junior Jordan McPhee? She won last year’s 4A meet by more than 40 seconds over Union’s Alexis Fuller. A showdown with Camas’ sensational Alexa Efraimson likely looms.
Others to watch: Abby Atchison, so., Tahoma; McKenzi Bravo, sr., Peninsula; Hannah Derby, jr., Bellarmine Prep; Sofia Kane, jr., Olympia; Elizabeth Oosterhout, sr., Tahoma; Daryl Phill, sr., Bellarmine Prep; Lauren Pierson, so., Capital; Brenna Peloquin, so., Gig Harbor; Yohana Solzano, sr., Foster; Delaney Tiernan, so., Tahoma.email@example.com 253-597-8442 blog.thenewstribune.com/preps @ManyHatsMilles firstname.lastname@example.org