Long ago, Capital High School girls coach Kevin Wright stopped telling Lauren Pierson what to do, and how to run cross country races.
She is doing just fine her own way.
The reigning two-time Evergreen Conference champion from the Cougars’ days in Class 2A won her third consecutive league title Wednesday afternoon – this time at the Narrows 4A/3A championships.
The Capital senior covered a soggy 5-kilometer course at Fort Steilacoom Park in 19 minutes, 1.21 seconds, good enough for a 36-second victory in the 3A Narrows race.
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As in tune as she is to her own strategy, fortunately Pierson can hear complete strangers yelling at her while she is racing.
As she was racing by herself, a meet official noticed the Cougars’ senior make a wrong turn on the course. He shouted for her to come back, which she did.
Taking into consideration her misstep — and the steady downpour — Pierson remarked the “course was running 10 to 15 seconds slower than usual.”
The Capital girls also captured their ninth league team championship in a row. Despite having the top three finishers — Pierson, ninth grader Naomi Reyes (19:37.07) and senior Payton McGuin (19:51.21) — and scoring 29 points, they barely held on to edge Central Kitsap (38).
It would seem as if things have returned to normal around the Capital program. It sure did not start out that way in September.
Frankly, the Cougars were unsettled. The team suffered a huge blow when McGuin’s mother died.
And two other regulars were suffering through health issues.
“It has settled down a lot, mainly because of Lauren,” Wright said.
“Today I was hoping for three (runners) to finish in the top five. Going 1-2-3 is awesome.”
That is the kind of leader — and teammate — Pierson is. And next week, she will have a chance to add a West Central District title to her 2A Southwest District championship from a year ago.
“This feels a lot more like the team we want to be,” Pierson said. “Just watching our team during workouts, I saw we were working together and building off each other instead of just running individually. Ever since them, we have been doing awesome.”
The race of the day — and the splashiest finish-line landing — belonged to North Thurston’s Peter Allegre, who edged favored Cameron Carroll of Central Kitsap in the final few meters.
Carroll led much of the race, but Allegre said he pulled even with the Cougars’ standout at the bottom of a hill with 600 meters to go.
“He kicked. I kicked — and I just kind of held on,” Allegre said. “It was a battle to the finish.”
As soon as Allegre crossed the finish line in 16:11.16, just ahead of Carroll (16:11.18), he tried to slow down — but hit a muddy patch and landed on his stomach.
“Not fun,” Allegre said. “It was kind of muddy.”
But Central Kitsap still took the team title with 28 points. North Thurston was second (56) and Capital was third (96).
In the 4A races, Olympia’s Peter Kesting, the defending WCD boys champion who has missed much of this season with a right hamstring injury, tried to give it a go Wednesday. And he got a mile into the race before stopping.
“It is really frustrating because I’ve never been injured before,” Kesting said. “This has been going off and on for 10 months.”
Kesting will have a chance to defending his district title next week at American Lake Golf Course in Tacoma because the Bears advanced as a team, placing third (75 points). Gig Harbor won the team title with 30 points, led by Tristan Peloquin’s first-place finish in 15:26.84.
And in the girls race, Olympia had its best showing of the season. Coach Cris Violette said all of his runners posted personal-best times, led by ninth grader Stella Grimsted (19:16.09), who placed second behind Gig Harbor’s Brenna Peloquin (18:48.71).
The Bears scored 47 points, and were not far off the pace by defending 4A state champion Bellarmine Prep (30).
“We had a good talk about doing better today than we did yesterday … so we were in a great frame of mind coming into the race,” Violette said. “We are running well at the right time.”
Hockinson’s Diego De La Torre shot an opening-day 1-over-par 73 to take a five-shot lead following Day 1 of the 2A District IV boys golf championships at Mint Valley Golf Course in Longview.
Tied for second is R.A. Long’s Tyler Messinger and Woodland’s Ryan Sturdivan with a 78. South Sound’s top golfer Wednesday was Tumwater sophomore Jordan Baird (81), who sits in fourth place. Black Hills’ Ryan Ziebart and Shaun Peters each shot an 86, followed by teammate Blake Fullington (87).