Gateway: Sports

Newcomer Fahey breaks out, leads Peninsula girls to South Sound cross country title

Peninsula’s Ashley Fahey hits the final leg of the SSC 3A cross country championships at Fort Steilacoom Park on Oct. 19.
Peninsula’s Ashley Fahey hits the final leg of the SSC 3A cross country championships at Fort Steilacoom Park on Oct. 19. jbessex@gateline.com

Peninsula High School junior Ashley Fahey didn’t run cross country her freshman year of high school.

She didn’t run her sophomore year, either. But given her success during her junior season — her first season running cross country — maybe she should have.

Fahey took third place overall at the Class 3A South Sound Conference championship last week at Fort Steilacoom Park, with a time of 19 minutes, 27.40 seconds and was the highest Peninsula finisher. Not too shabby for a rookie.

She found her sport. She just works incredibly hard and is very competitive.

Tyler Nugent, Peninsula cross country coach

“Just undiscovered talent, I guess,” said first-year cross country coach Tyler Nugent. “I coached her in track last year. She was a decent track runner, but she has just exploded. She found her sport. She just works incredibly hard and is very competitive.”

So why didn’t she turn out her first two seasons?

“I didn’t want to do it, so I just didn’t,” Fahey said.

But those days are in the past.

“I started this summer and just loved it,” she said. “I just kept going with it. I’m really happy. It’s been a great experience.”

She set a personal record in the league championship race, by about five seconds.

“I felt really nervous,” she said. “I just kept telling myself that I could do it. That was helpful.”

She wasn’t the only Seahawk on the girls side who had a strong showing. Five Peninsula girls finished in the top 10 of the race, dominating and taking first place easily, with a score of 31. The next closest with Central Kitsap with 48. Senior Stephanie VanderBank took fourth at 19:37.60, freshman Sadie Lucero took sixth at 19:40, junior Grace Haugen took eighth at 20:09.90 and sophomore McKenna Clark took tenth at 20:14.90.

It comes down to our hard work. I feel like we put in a lot of effort and a lot of hard work in our workouts. That really helps us.

Ashley Fahey, Peninsula junior runner

“It comes down to our hard work,” Fahey said. “I feel like we put in a lot of effort and a lot of hard work in our workouts. That really helps us.”

Nugent knew the girls team would be good this year. Adding Fahey to the lineup has propelled it to the next level.

“We had a couple new runners who have just really exceeded expectations,” he said. “That’s taken us from good to hopefully elite. We’re going to find out this weekend (at the Westside Classic district meet) and at state. Beyond just the talent, they run together as a team. As individuals, they wouldn’t have the success that they’re having as a team. They’re able to run as a pack and support and encourage each other.”

The Peninsula boys took fourth with a score of 120, behind Gig Harbor, Capital and Central Kitsap, which finished one through three, respectively. Senior Riley Wynn finished eighth with a time of 16:45.70. His strategy? Keeping up with his crosstown rivals. Wynn ran with a pack of strong Gig Harbor High School runners throughout the race.

“Those guys are elite runners and it’s a bit scary,” he said. “They’re nationally ranked and our team isn’t. It’s good competition. They’re really nice guys in the races and off them.”

Nugent said he was pleased with the performance of the boys team.

“For the most part, they ran really well,” he said. “We had three or four PRs, which you love to see. They’re not as strong as last year, but they have an outside shot to get to state.”

As for the girls, they have a chance to make some noise at the state meet in Pasco.

“We definitely have some goals that we talk about,” Nugent said. “We want to place high. There are so many good teams in this state. It’s just a matter of staying focused and racing well when it counts. We’ll see where the chips fall.”

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