Gig Harbor boys race away with state title

Contributing writerNovember 10, 2013 

PASCO — Ambitious, insatiable and still undefeated, the Gig Harbor boys cross-country team refuses to take measure of this historic season until it is over.

Take Logan Carroll, who outkicked teammate and fellow senior Wolfgang Beck over the final 1,000 yards to win the Class 4A state title at Sun Willows Golf Course on Saturday

“I’m sure once everything calms down,” Carroll said, “it will hit me.”

“If you don’t enjoy running, it’s a tough sport,” said Beck, whose strong push at the finishing stripe held off teammate Tristan Peloquin for second place. “You have to enjoy every part, whether it’s an easy, 15-mile warm-up run with your teammates, or on a golf course in the elite race in the state.

“But we still have a long road ahead.”

Along that road, significant way points remain for the team ranked No. 1 in the nation by DyeStat.com.

Some, like the Nike Cross Northwest Regionals on Nov. 16 or the national meet Dec. 7 in Portland, are tangible. Others — such as earning from cross-country cognoscenti regard as the greatest practitioners of the sport

in Washington history — are ethereal.

But the program’s first state championship since 2011 — wrapped tidily by the 1-2-3 finish from Carroll, Beck and Peloquin, and a ninth-place showing from Mahmoud Moussa — was put in the rearview Saturday.

It was a scenic stretch of highway, too, and Gig Harbor, which had spent most of its dominant season draining all drama from the team title race, managed to re-inject some thrill.

The racecourse at Sun Willows doglegs right and spills down the undulating slope of the first fairway about 1,000 yards from the finish line. That’s where Carroll, Beck and Peloquin broke free. Flanked by howling fans to the left and brown-leafed trees to the right, they bolted down the home stretch in their light-blue tops and dark-blue headbands, cresting the last hill clustered together, alone.

“That was fun,” Gig Harbor coach Mark Wieczorek said. “It’s always good to see things turn out for them. They’ve worked hard.”

“Obviously, we had some great competition today,” said Carroll, who won in 15:06.37. “But it was nice that the three of us were able to get out and perform.”

Beck shaved seven seconds off his 2012 state second-place time, finishing in 15:09.28. Peloquin (15:14.24), a junior, cracked the top 10 for the first time.

“I don’t know if Wolf had his best day,” Carroll said. “It was kind of funny. He told me ‘great job’ after the race, and I said, ‘Sorry to take that from you.’ There’s no bashing of heads on this team.”

Moussa (15:29.62) and Michael Hammer were among seven Gig Harbor runners who finished in the top 50 in team scoring, amplifying the margin between the champions (37 points) and second-place Redmond (119).

“It’s my job to think about training and their job to do what they’re told — and have a good time with it,” Wieczorek said. “State is an important race. But the most important thing is to enjoy every step of this. It could be 60 years from now, and we won’t have a team half this good.

“Hopefully,” he added, “there are more days like this to come.”

Tahoma’s Riley Campbell climbed the podium Saturday after placing eighth in 15:28.09, and Bellarmine Prep (170 points) and Tahoma (192) finished fifth and sixth in the team standings.

PACK OF LIONS WIN

Bellarmine Prep junior Laura Staeheli was just as motivated hearing fans yell her name as she was hearing them yell the names of her teammates.

It meant that the Lions were executing coach Matt Ellis’ strategy to perfection.

“I kept on hearing all of their names as I ran by,” Staeheli said.

“I think,” said Bellarmine Prep sophomore Emily Thomas, “we were pretty good as a pack.”

By staying clustered toward the front of the field, the Lions scored just low enough to nip Camas and all-world Alexa Efraimson 92-105 for their first state title since 2004.

“We just ran great in the middle,” Ellis said. “Believe it or not, we probably were a little too aggressive in the first mile.”

Efraimson (17:01.10) had been in the cooldown area beyond the finish line for almost a minute and a half when Thomas finished 14th (18:35.33) and Staeheli 16th (18:40.66). Miranda Ross was 18th (18:48.29), Jordan Thurston 20th (18:52.15) and senior Hannah Derby 58th (19:30.93).

“By and large, these girls have been super all year in executing race plans,” said Ellis. “They also truly enjoy each other. This has been, by far, the easiest group I’ve had to coach.

“Emily, our No. 1, ran a great race,” he added. “Laura had the race of her season. She let it rip today. And for Jordan and Miranda to be in that group ... That was our goal, to be packed up.”

Brenna Peloquin of Gig Harbor was third (18:06.95) among team scorers and fourth overall, and Tahoma’s Delaney Tiernan placed eighth (18:26.28) overall.

PENINSULA GIRLS FALL SHORT

Sarah Manning was her harshest critic after helping Peninsula to a seventh-place 3A finish.

“I went in knowing I had to run for my team, and I feel like I let them down,” Manning said after placing 29th overall in 19:29.14. “I fell too far back. These races start fast. That’s the hardest part of this race.”

Emma Jones finished just behind Manning in 19:30.11. Four of Peninsula’s top five Saturday will return next season.

“This was a year when probably six or seven teams could have won this,” Peninsula coach Joel Wingard said. “Our top end probably didn’t place as highly as we’d like, but I’m pleased with the way they ran.

“It’s a real small window,” he added. “You basically have 20 minutes to be at your best.”

Said Manning, a junior: “I’m ready for more. This made me more hungry.”

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