The last time the Gig Harbor High School boys cross country team got an impactful transfer, the Tides won a national championship in 2013.
This year, transfer Peter Smith is hoping to push the Tides over the edge once again.
Smith is the reigning Class 6A Virginia state champion, when he posted a time of 15 minutes, 22 seconds as a junior for Oscar Smith High School last November. His father, who’s in the U.S. Navy, relocated for job. That meant a move across the country for Smith’s senior year.
“I didn’t find out which school I was going to until we were actually driving over here,” Smith said.
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He didn’t know much about Gig Harbor at the time.
“As soon as I got here, I found out what caliber these guys are,” Smith said. “I fit right in.”
He certainly does fit in, and has been the team’s No. 2 runner this year, close to junior Bradley Peloquin. Smith took 11th at the highly-competitive Steilacoom Invitational recently at 15 minutes, 54.1 seconds, while Peloquin took second, clocking in at 15:31.7.
“Without him, I think things are a lot different,” Peloquin said of his new teammate. “Without him, we lose a lot of points. Without him, I think our goals would be a lot different.”
Mahmoud Moussa was the transfer who put Gig Harbor over the edge in 2013. This year’s group is hoping Smith can Gig Harbor back on top of the state.
“A state title is definitely our goal, having so many big guns up front,” said first-year coach Andrew Walker. “That puts you in the conversation. I feel really good about our top three or four.”
Seniors Nolan Carroll and Finlay Adamson round out that group, as the team’s No. 3 and 4 runners, respectively. If Gig Harbor wins the state title, Smith figures to be a big part of the team’s success.
“First of all, he’s a good kid,” Walker said. “He’s got a great work ethic and he brings a lot of senior leadership to the team, which is kind of cool, stepping into that role.”
It’s been a bit of an adjustment for Smith, coming into a new program, with a different way of doing things than he’s accustomed to.
“I’m still getting used to the training,” Smith said. “It’s a lot more high mileage here. I’m used to lower mileage and higher intensity.”
He’s starting to pick it up. And that could spell bad news for the rest of the state.
“I don’t think we’ve seen what we’re going to get at the end of the season yet from him,” Walker said. “I expect in the next month or so, when we hit league, districts and state, he’s going to really round into shape.”
An impactful transfer is one similarity between this year’s group and the 2013 team. Another? Both Peloquin and Carroll had older siblings on the 2013 team.
Bradley’s brother, Tristan, and Nolan’s brother, Logan, helped Gig Harbor bring home state and national titles in 2013.
“It was really cool watching (the 2013 team), to see how the team bonds,” Carroll said. “When you’re competing for the national title as a team, you realize how important having five guys is.”
Depth will be a big factor in Gig Harbor’s postseason success.
“We’ve got the pieces, we just have to put everything together,” Carroll said. “Depth is the key. We need someone to push on that five spot to make us a little more competitive that way.”
After the first four spots, there are some questions for the Tides. Walker is hoping to find some answers in the next month.
“A ‘5-man’ will be the key,” Walker said. “I really do feel good about where we are through four. Out of those eight guys, I bet we’ll get more than one that has the potential to get to where we need them. If we can get more than one and then have that room for error. It really will come down to our depth. I think we’re going to make up some points on the front end, but if we’re losing too much on the back end, it adds up. It’s tough. I can’t tell you how important a good 5-man is.”
Smith credits Peloquin and Carroll with pulling him along during the first part of the team’s training. His endurance is up, he’s rounding into form and he’s adjusting well to life in the Pacific Northwest.
“At my old school, I was the only one who went to state,” Smith said. “To win a state title with these guys would be really exciting.”