MAPLE VALLEY – The Tahoma High School girls’ cross-country team has a date in mind.
That is the date of the state meet in Pasco. The Bears have advanced to the Class 4A championships for 16 consecutive seasons. They won their lone state team title in 2011.
In defense of their title, they lost last season to top-ranked Camas, led by Alexa Efraimson, one of the nation’s top distance runners. Tahoma finished behind the Papermakers as the runner-up in Class 4A.
“We’re mad about the results last year,” Bears junior Delaney Tiernan said. “We believe we’re better than that and will prove it this year. We’re going to use whatever we can to get better.”
Tahoma is sticking with an in-season plan started five years ago by co-coaches Gary Conner and Jeff Brady: Two-a-day practices.
“I had to find a way to regain the hours I lose (from summer) during the school week,” Conner said.
They wanted an effective carryover from a strict summer training regimen, one that saw the boys running 65 miles a week, and the girls putting in 52 miles.
So every Tuesday and Thursday during the fall season, both squads put in two workouts as a way to preserve their mass-mileage base for competing in important meets.
“The point is to get them ready to go for Pasco,” Conner said.
Those days start with a team breakfast – with the girls meeting at the house of a teammate, and the boys doing the same at a different location.
“It’s really nice just getting together,” Bears sophomore Abigail Oosterhout said.
They also do more than just eat.
“We write on our arms, ‘This is for them,’ to remind us that this is for each other – that we can be better and do this together,” Tiernan said.
Their post-breakfast run is usually 5-6 miles with Bears assistant Jodi Hoffbuhr. After they
are finished, they get ready for school – then on to the afternoon practice.
“The mornings give us all kinds of issues to face, from weather to normal aches and pains,” Conner said. “What it does is make us tougher.”
It seems to work. Since 2009, the Tahoma girls have finished first or second at state three times.
If the Bears want to continue that streak, or even upend Camas, they might have to do it without No. 2 runner Amanda Kiefer, whose return is up in the air after she fractured her left foot during the summer.
Conner said they won’t know until mid-October if she will return to the team.
So far, Tahoma’s overall depth has prevailed. So has its determination and toughness. At the Bellevue Invitational on Saturday, heavy rain turned the course at Lake Sammamish State Park into an ordeal of hurdling over ankle-deep puddles.
Tahoma won the team title despite weather conditions that Brady said were the worst he’s seen.
“This is what we prepare for and I know they’re always ready for it,” Brady said. “This is Washington cross country.”
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY PRIMER
Gig Harbor doesn’t just have Class 4A domination on its mind – it has national championship aspirations. Wolfgang Beck, Logan Carroll and Tristan Peloquin made up a stellar returning nucleus, but after senior Mahmoud Moussa transferred in from powerhouse Arcadia (Calif.) High, the Tides now have four elite runners. Winner of the Bob Firman Invitational and Nike Pre-Nationals earlier this month, Gig Harbor is ranked No. 2 nationally.
RUNNER TO WATCH
Talk about due, Beck – the heartbeat of the best boys cross-country program in the state at any classification – is the heavy favorite to finally win his first Class 4A title in November. The reigning West Central District champion is a gutsy, calculated, determined runner who never seems to tire. He is showing interest in Princeton, Dartmouth and Stanford.
BEST OF REST
Riley Campbell, Tahoma, sr.
Logan Carroll, Gig Harbor, sr.
Adam Emerick, Charles Wright Academy, jr.
James Jasperson, North Thurston, sr.
Austin Jex, Beamer, jr.
Peter Kesting, Olympia, jr.
Ben Monk, Capital, sr.
Stephen Nelson, Lakes, sr.
Tristan Peloquin, Gig Harbor, jr.
Cody Williamson, Shelton, sr.
GIRLS CROSS COUNTRY PRIMER
This is the year Peninsula can go from consistent top-three performer to legitimately challenging Glacier Peak and Kamiakin for the Class 3A state title. McKenzi Bravo and Sarah Manning were already two of the state’s top returners, but Emma Jones is primed to join them atop the Seahawks’ lineup. If a No. 4 runner emerges from promising Mary Eldridge, Sydney Heinemann, Stephanie VanderBank and Ericka Hettick, watch out.
RUNNER TO WATCH
Maybe Mount Rainier’s Jordan McPhee was spoiled in 2011 having never lost a cross-country race en route to the Class 4A title. Then she ran into Camas standout Alexa Efraimson last season, suffering her first in-state losses at the district and state meets. She is still the best challenger to Efraimson this fall, even though basketball is her first love.
BEST OF REST
McKenzi Bravo, Peninsula, sr.
Anna Brooks, Northwest Christian, jr.
Rose Christen, Central Kitsap, sr.
Hannah Derby, Bellarmine Prep, sr.
Aleea Gwerder, Enumclaw, so.
Abi Hensler, Sumner, sr.
Sofia Kane, Olympia, sr.
Sarah Manning, Peninsula, jr.
Lauren Pierson, Capital, jr.
Delaney Tiernan, Tahoma, jr.Kevin Manning: 253-597-8680 kevin.manning@ thenewstribune.com email@example.com