Gateway: Sports

Gig Harbor’s Gregory rides momentum from last year’s breakout campaign

Gig Harbor High senior Ryan Gregory has stepped up into a leadership role with the Tides cross country team this season.
Gig Harbor High senior Ryan Gregory has stepped up into a leadership role with the Tides cross country team this season. Staff writer

Gig Harbor High senior Ryan Gregory had a breakout year for the Tides cross country team last season, which culminated with a 30th place finish at the Class 4A state meet in Pasco. For Gregory, it was the result of putting together consistent training and staying healthy.

“I think in years prior, I’ve had a little trouble with consistency,” he said. “I got hurt in soccer, and that took a big chunk of training out. Last year was my first full year of getting a full block of training in. That really helped me later in the season, having that training behind me. They helped me just keep progressing throughout the season. Everything turned out really well.”

Gig Harbor coach Mark Wieczorek echoed Gregory’s sentiments.

“He’s done well being consistent and managing his recovery,” Wieczorek said. “He’s a hard worker. Over time, it starts to show.”

While most would probably be pleased with a 30th place finish, Gregory was a bit disappointed. His race was far from flawless as he suffered two falls on the course.

“I know I was capable of more,” Gregory said. “I’m definitely using that to drive me forward. I definitely want to finish up there with the top guys this year. Our main goal is to win state as a team. Wherever I finish, as long as I can help the team, that’s really all that matters to me.”

The boys cross country team is aiming for its third straight state title, but will face some stiff competition from schools such as Tahoma High School, which has an experienced squad.

“Tahoma’s got a great group,” Wieczorek said. “It would be almost disrespectful to them to not appreciate how good of a group they have. We kind of get to know other teams. Tahoma is one of those teams, it’s hard to not like them. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t excited to see how well they can do. They probably have a top-end national team this year. Realistically, we’re probably not there. Hopefully, we’ll just be as competitive as we can.”

But one thing is certain: The Tides won’t go down without a fight.

“I think at the beginning of the season, it was going to be tough, losing some of those key guys,” Gregory said. “But we’ve really had a couple guys step up very well. They’ve gotten some good training in. I think they’ll be able to fill some of those roles and gaps that we needed to. I think it’s a definite possibility. One thing this team does is compete. I think on any given day, we can compete with the best teams in the state.”

They’ll need a solid performance from Gregory, who has taken over as the team’s leader. Wieczorek said he’s never had a senior leader do a better job of running a fun, inclusive offseason training program.

“It’s probably the best leadership we’ve had throughout a summer that I’ve seen since I’ve been here,” he said. “It’s my fifth summer with the kids. He’s really taken the mantle of taking over. He’s done a great job of keeping kids included, making the summer training fun, organizing events, keeping kids involved, doing stuff together with the team. Our young kids, they’re developing well, and a lot of that is because of him.”

Developing chemistry between the team’s top dogs and the younger kids was important for Gregory.

“I think that helps training go along because it allows everyone to know each other and have fun running and not just going to practice and being tired and not wanting to be there, but making people want to be there with us,” Gregory said. “So I think that really helped the guys get through a solid block of training.”

The girls lost star runner Brenna Peloquin to graduation, one of the school’s best-ever. Senior Riley Paul will look to step up and fill the leadership role for the girls squad.

“She had some issues early on — knee problems sophomore year — and hasn’t been able to put together a full season,” Wieczorek said. “She’s mostly been pretty healthy, keeping her body going pretty well. I think she’s ready to have a good season.”

Jon Manley: 253-358-4151