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There are big shoes to fill for the Gig Harbor High School cross country team as they are now without graduated senior Bradley Peloquin.
But what the Tides do have are some young runners that are working to close that gap that Peloquin leaves behind.
“It’s totally different this year. There are a bunch of guys figuring out how to close that gap,” said coach Patty Ley. “What I am even seeing so far is that the younger guys are stepping up.”
This season, the younger runners are fired up to get out onto the course and prove that they are able to compete as the No. 1 runner for the Tides.
One of the young runners that is showing early season prominence is sophomore Kaiser Keck. Keck was one of the three racers to make it to the 3A state championship on the boys side for the Tides.
He finished 119th overall with a time of 17 minutes and 33.20 seconds. He was the second Tides runner to cross the finish line for the team.
“In some ways, he was kind of our number two guy by the end of the year,” Ley said. “He’s right towards the front. Will Newberg is a sophomore that has improved leaps and bounds. He is the kid who struggled with workouts last year… and this year he is running right near [Keck].”
Last year, Keck made an immediate impact as a freshman. He finished consistently in the top 35, with the exception of the Nike Portland meet, including 14th in the 3A South Sound Conference XC Championship and 28th at districts.
Newberg is also hoping to capitalize on his new found running strength. Last season, his best finish was 23rd at the junior varsity Tacoma Twilight race and he came in 41st at the SSC championships.
But there is still a learning curve for all the fresh faces the Tides have.
“[On the running areas], we’ll tell them to go run for 40 minutes. But we’ll also tell them in that 40 minutes here’s where you should get to and come back from,” Ley said. “They’re beginning to learn that these things matter and catch up.”
As the season has begun, the runners are beginning to connect with each other by hanging out and supporting one another. The comradery has spread through the team and is helping the runners get that much better.
One runner that wants to build off her success from last season is Belle Johnson.
Johnson was the only runner to make it to state from the girls side for the Tides. And she finished relatively high coming in at 23rd with a time of 19:34.60.
“She was our No. 1 last year as a freshman,” Ley said. “She was disappointed because she felt like she could do a little bit better. But it was such a new experience for her.”
As she enters her sophomore year, Johnson has gone the proverbial extra mile as she has attended a couple camps over the summer to help hone her craft.
“The other girls aren’t quite to where she is right now,” Ley said. “We’ve tossed her in with some of the guys and they’re awesome working with her.”
Last year, Johnson finished second at the SSC championships and fairly consistently in the top 10 for varsity meets. Another pair of runners that should make improvements for the girls are Addie Taylor and Emily Zinter.
Taylor, a junior, and Zinter, a sophomore, have improved leaps and bounds since last year. They consistently are putting in strong workouts; pushing hard when they need to and relaxing when they need to as well.
“I think they are going to help us out a lot. We got a pretty good freshman coming in to,” Ley said. “It may take a little bit for them to figure it out but I think they’re going to. Kaley Fergus has shown she could do some really good work.”
Taylor and Zinter finished 26th and 40th respectively at the SSC championships last year.
“Our big rule is that you fail only if you quit on yourself,” Ley said. “If you’re not quitting on yourself, it’s stuff we are going to work on. If you are, then you’re going to hear about it.”
The Tides will continue their season as their next meet will be at 3:45 p.m., Wednesday, Sept. 18 at Sehmel Homestead Park against the rest of the 3A SSC.