Fast-thinking, Graeme Schroeder’s admits he rehearses post-race interviews, if any reporters happen to catch and corner him at Tahoma High School cross country races.
But that all trails his fast moves late in races — like the ones he displayed Saturday at the Fort Steilacoom Invitational in Lakewood.
After passing Stadium’s Shay Glackin-Coley for the lead with 1,000 meters to go, only to lose it immediately, Schroeder thought his methodically-organized bid to win was finished.
But as he came down the final stretch in sight of the finish line, something crazy happened.
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“I heard the cheers, heard my name,” Schroeder said, “and adrenaline kicked in.”
Schroeder furiously passed a tiring Glackin-Coley in the final 100 meters to win the boys’ gold-division race in 15 minutes, 57.85 seconds. Glackin-Coley was the runner-up in 16:04.01.
On the girls side, Richland’s Lindsey Bradley became the first repeat winner since Mount Rainier’s Jordan McPhee in 2012 at the Fort Steilacoom Invitational. And like she did last year, Bradley — last year’s Class 4A state runner-up — won going away.
Bradley finished by herself in 17:43.99, and had a minute to regroup before Tahoma’s Delaney Tiernan crossed in second place at 18:45.11.
Both Tahoma squads swept the team titles — with the boys winning handily with 37 points and the girls edging Timberline (Idaho) in a tiebreaker. Both schools finished with 56 points.
If you haven’t been to a Fort Steilacoom Invitational, it is almost like a late-summer fair. With 61 schools participating, it is the second-largest regular-season cross country invitational in Washington behind Sunfair in Yakima.
And the event has its own flair, especially with a hand-picked pep band blaring tunes as the runners warmed up at the starting line.
This season, a new “gold division” was created for the elite teams and standout runners. The Tahoma boys entered their whole team while Glackin-Coley was the lone Stadium representative.
By the end, it came down to a two-runner duel.
“A mantra I live by — fatigue is fake. Your brain’s fatigue is what makes you stop, and I just didn’t let my brain take over,” Schroeder said.
Meanwhile, Bradley said she tried to stick with a lead pack in the early going, but sped up at the 1,000-meter mark. Nobody chased her.
“I wouldn’t say I am ahead of everyone training-wise,” Bradley said. “I just get into these races feeling good and I am ready mentally.”
If a school is going to wrestle the Class 4A girls team title away from defending champion Bellarmine Prep, Tahoma is as good a bet as anybody — led by Tiernan, a bona fide anchor runner.
“I don’t know if there is a ceiling for us if we try hard and keep improving,” Tiernan said.