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.
“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.