The Gig Harbor High boys cross country team is three years removed from its historic national championship-winning season. Maybe now, the Tides are a little bit overlooked.
But if the Class 3A South Sound Conference championship meet Oct. 19 at Fort Steilacoom Park was any indication, opponents shouldn’t be taking the Tides lightly. Gig Harbor dominated the meet, winning with a score of 27. In second place was Capital, with 78 points — a whole 51 points off.
Sophomore Bradley Peloquin took first at the meet with a time of 16 minutes, 1.10 seconds. Senior Jack Shields took third at 16:22.40, junior Nolan Carroll took fourth at 16:29.40 and junior Finlay Adamson took seventh at 16:43.30.
“It sends a pretty clear message: We’re aiming for the (state) podium,” Shields said.
It sends a pretty clear message: We’re aiming for the (state) podium.
Jack Shields, Gig Harbor senior
For Gig Harbor, state placing and state titles have become the expectation. But Gig Harbor coach Mark Wieczorek said he wanted to change the focus a bit this season.
“We try to keep the expectations away from what the athletes before them have done,” Wieczorek said. “We want them taking ownership for their own running and enjoying the process. Sometimes it can get too caught up by defining that, by winning a state title, or getting on the podium. And that’s dependent on other things. For them, it’s about enjoying the process. Last year, I felt there was some negative pressure to live up to certain expectations.”
Wieczorek has always preached having fun and enjoying running.
“The times I’ve enjoyed coaching the most is when the kids have fun,” he said. “Whatever the results may be, they have fun going out there and executing. I want to see after the state meet, whatever happens, that it was all worth it. Spending time, getting to run together is something special. I’d like to enjoy the process and see positive attitudes after.”
Gig Harbor’s core group of Peloquin, Shields and Carroll ran in a pack for most of the league championship meet. They got out of the gate a slower than in past races, which was all part of the game plan going in.
“It let us feel really strong for the last two miles,” Shields said. “It feels a lot easier. It makes the second mile harder when you have to pick up the pace, but I like it compared to going out too hard. It’s good practice. Postseason is tactical.”
Running in a pack is something Gig Harbor’s runners like to do in big races.
“It really helps having your teammates next to you,” Shields said. “You don’t really zone out. You’re always in there.”
Peloquin, only a sophomore, generally separates during the last couple miles. Like his siblings before him, he’s proving to be a terrific runner.
“(All the Peloquins) are incredible,” Shields said. “They’re super hard working and just know how to race. They show up at the big meets.”
Wieczorek said he isn’t surprised to see Pelqouin so good already as a sophomore, having coached his twin siblings, Tristan and Brenna.
“They’re a fun group,” he said. “They enjoy the sport. They enjoy trying to excel. (Bradley) has a passion for it. He’s a talented kid. He’s just a good kid. He’s happy to be here. I haven’t seen him put any negative pressure on himself. He just enjoys competing.”