What happened to Mount Rainier High School senior Jordan McPhee at Saturday’s Curtis Invitational as she ran off the main path at Chambers Bay and onto the golf course is rare.
She lost the lead.
McPhee won her first three cross-country meets this year. In 2011, she won all of her races, including the Class 4A state meet in Pasco. She took first place six times last year and finished second at state.
She isn’t accustomed to seeing the backs of competitors.
“I was definitely worried,” McPhee said. “I just tried not to think about it too much, just trying not to psych myself out.”
She stayed focused and regained the lead from Bellarmine Prep’s Emily Thomas on the loop back from the golf course and onto the main path. She wouldn’t let it go again, earning her fourth win in four meets this year with a time of 18 minutes, 37.60 seconds on the 5,000-meter course.
“I was just trying to stay with (Thomas),” McPhee said. “I knew if I could, then I could battle at the end. I was just aiming to get in the 18th minute. Just thinking, ‘18, 18, 18.’ ”
McPhee finished almost eight seconds ahead of Thomas, the sophomore who was passed on the final straightaway by Kent-Meridian freshman Olivia Baerny (18:43.80). Baerny was coming off a victory at Kentridge.
But for all McPhee knew, Thomas was right on her heels.
“I was sprinting and not letting myself look back,” she said. “I was just imagining her being right behind me. I didn’t know until the end how close she actually was.”
Thomas made up for it by helping the Bellarmine Prep girls earn first place in the team standings with 50 points to second-place Capital’s 78. Bellarmine’s Miranda Ross took sixth in 19:01.43, and teammate Laura Staeheli was eighth in 19:10.37.
Thomas’ expression throughout the race showed that she wasn’t too upset with third place.
“She was smiling the whole time,” McPhee said. “I was like, ‘I’m dying. How is she smiling?’ I tried at the end, but I was like, ‘No, I’m tired.’ It takes too many muscles to smile.”
“I like running,” said Thomas, still smiling at the finish line.
Bellarmine Prep also won the boys race, earning 103 points to Medical Lake’s 165 and Kentridge’s 193.
The Lions were coming off the Stanford Invitational on Sept. 28 in Stanford, Calif. They didn’t compete in the Curtis Invitational last year because the Stanford race was the same weekend.
Bellarmine’s Jack Yearian placed fourth Saturday in 16:09.26 after finishing 43rd at Stanford. Teammate Will Sherman took fifth in 16:14.67.
Last year, Bellevue’s Kyle Pratt placed second at the Curtis Invitational behind teammate and current Yale cross-country runner Nathaniel “Spike” Sievert. This time, Pratt took first in 15:49.77.
Capital’s Ben Monk placed second in 15:56.16.
Pratt placed 52nd last year at the Class 3A state meet, but he has two wins this year, including Wednesday at Juanita.
“I feel like I’m stronger this year,” Pratt said. “I’m focusing on staying healthy, and it’s a big confidence boost to win a meet like this, definitely.”TJ Cotterill: 253-597-8677 email@example.com @Cotterill44