When former Lincoln High School superstar cross country and track runner James Mwaura graduated and went off to Gonzaga University, there might have be no one happier than Gig Harbor’s Bradley Peloquin.
Peloquin, now a senior, took third at the Class 3A state cross country meet last year in Pasco, clocking in at 15 minutes, 23 seconds — less than a second behind the second place finisher.
But first place? That would’ve been a pipe dream. Mwaura clocked in at 14:48.30, capping off one of the most dominant cross country seasons the state has ever seen. It was his second consecutive 3A state title.
Now that Mwaura is out of the way, the path to a state title at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco on Nov. 3 looks much clearer.
“The motivation hasn’t changed but the dynamic definitely has changed,” Peloquin said. “Last year, I had big goals at state. I wasn’t thinking about winning, but I knew what I was capable of and I wanted to do that at state. The motivation hasn’t changed a whole lot, but the expectation has changed.”
While Peloquin was essentially racing for second place last year, he’s aiming for the top spot on the podium this year.
The race should shape up a bit differently, too. Last year, Mwaura went out quickly and no one dared to try to keep pace with him.
“I was running with the chase-pack last year,” Peloquin said. “This year, the chase-pack is going to be the lead pack. I don’t see anyone taking off this year and no one going with them.”
For Peloquin, that means he’ll have to be a bit more tactical with his decision making this year.
“I’m going to have to be thinking more about when to make my move,” Peloquin said. “I have to think about that more. I can’t just sit on people this year.”
Peloquin has put together a fantastic senior season. In late September, he took first at the Nike Portland cross country race against someo f the top competition in the Pacific Northwest, setting a personal record of 15:06.5 He followed that up on Oct. 18 with a dominant showing at the Class 3A South Sound Conference championship meet at Fort Steilacoom Park, crushing the competition with a 15:07.3 first-place finish.
It’s the sixth time Peloquin has run the Fort Steilacoom course in high school cross country, so he knows it like the back of his hand. That experience contributed to a time nearly identical to his personal record time in Portland, despite not having anyone to push him this time around.
“It definitely helps a lot, knowing where you are at certain points of the race,” Peloquin said. “I know the course left and right, which is really helpful.”
Peloquin said that his coach, Patty Ley, is a proponent of keeping things the same. So with the district meet on Saturday at Chambers Creek in University Place, and the state meet looming, Peloquin expects his training to remain pretty much the same.
If all continues to go well, Peloquin could finish his high school career with that elusive state title.
“It definitely would be an honor,” Peloquin said. “It’s one f those things where I don’t really know how it’ll feel until I actually do it. I don’t know yet. We’ll see what happens.”
Peloquin is focused on trying not to over think the big race. Whatever happens that day, Peloquin can live with, as long as he prepares well and runs his hardest.
“When you over think it, that’s when the pressure comes,” Peloquin said. “When you think about things too much beforehand, that can cause you to just freak out. I’m definitely keeping things in perspective, but I’m aiming for the win.”