For as effortless as she can appear running, Camas High School’s Alexa Efraimson looked stressed out and off balance straining from the finish line to see the action behind her at the 12th annual Westside Classic district cross country championships Saturday.
Efraimson is expected to take all the suspense out of next week’s state meet in Pasco as the heavy favorite to repeat as the Class 4A girls’ winner. But she is also right in the thick of a too-close-to-call team race.
On a cold, blustery early November afternoon, Efraimson navigated a slippery, tricky 5-kilometer course at American Lake Golf Course in Lakewood to easily claim her third district title. The junior won by nearly a minute – in 17 minutes, 40.5 seconds.
The Camas star barely missed the meet record of 17:40, set by Jefferson’s Kenna Patrick in 2006.
That was all she was able to celebrate. Even though she won, and teammates Alissa Pdilitzke (third) and Marley LeFore (ninth) were top-10 finishers, the defending Class 4A state champion Papermakers were nudged out by a quintet of quality pack runners from Bellarmine Prep.
And the Lions make no apologies for being more methodical in their approach than noise-making.
“We have to go out and execute,” Bellarmine Prep girls coach Matt Ellis said. “Obviously we have a great front five – not a front-runner – but we have a pack. We cannot get caught up in ... Camas or Tahoma. We have to pass all jerseys.”
And they did – all five of them. Senior Hannah Derby was the team’s only top-10 runner (10th in 19:15.4), but Emily Thomas (11th), Jordan Thurston (12th), Miranda Ross (13th) and Laura Staeheli (17th) were not far behind.
The Lions are ranked No. 1 in the latest 4A coaches’ poll. Their only loss this season was out of state at the Stanford Invitational. Camas is No. 2, and Tahoma is No. 3.
That was the order of finish Saturday, too – Bellarmine Prep winning with 63 points, followed by Camas (66) and Tahoma (75).
“I am really curious to see how our team stacks up against their teams,” Efraimson said. “The (individual title and team title) are equal to me. My teammates, they mean everything to me. We spend every minute of the week together, so I want us to succeed as a team.”
CLASS 4A BOYS
Runners are some of the most observant athletes around. Olympia High School’s Peter Kesting is one of those types.
Yes, Kesting, a junior, became his school’s first Westside Classic winner Saturday. He took the lead a mile into the race, and won in 16:10.7.
But afterward, he was not whole-heartedly celebrating his victory. He knew the Gig Harbor boys, ranked No. 1 in the country and heavy favorites next week, decided to ease up from their normal dogged style of running.
“I wish they (Gig Harbor runners) would have raced, but I can kind of understand it because they are saving up for nationals and they don’t want to get burned out,” Kesting said.
Tides senior Wolfgang Beck was the defending district champion coming in. He placed fifth at 16:22.8, which was nearly 50 seconds slower than his 2012 winning time of 15:33.2.
“I kind of pack ran today,” said Beck, the top-ranked 4A runner this season. “We put in a nice, solid effort. The goal today, of course, was to qualify for state. The next race, we really lay down the hammer.”
The Tides still won with 54 points.
CLASS 3A GIRLS
The 4A girls’ race next weekend should be a doozy. And the 3A chase won’t be far behind.
Two of the state contenders, Prairie and Peninsula, went head-to-head Saturday. The Falcons got a big victory from Oregon State commit Nicole Goecke (18:42.5), who won by 78 seconds over teammate Jamie Ferris.
Peninsula was good – Sarah Manning was third, Emma Jones was fifth and an under-the-weather McKenzi Bravo was seventh – just not good enough. Prairie edged the Seahawks, 41-44.
“Prairie is a great team, but if we are all in better health, we can beat them,” Bravo said.
Chief Leschi won the 1B/2B boys’ district title, led by seniors Isac Bennett (third) and Lorenzo Rendon (sixth), and junior Trevor Luke (seventh). The Warriors’ 41 points barely beat defending meet champion Crosspoint Academy (43) and Bear Creek (45). … Lindbergh’s Abebaw Endalkachew won the 2A boys title in 16:35.4. The student from Ethiopia ran for Kentridge High School last season. Franklin Pierce’s Stephan Hull was third at 17:04.6. … Defending 1A district boys’ champion Charles Wright Academy was upended by Meridian, 76-100.
Todd Milles: 253-597-8442