High School Sports

2014 high school cross country preview: Another Staeheli, another fast runner

Laura Staeheli has embraced her endurance-running heritage.

You see, around Bellarmine Prep, the Staeheli name is legendary in distance racing. Her father, Chris, and her uncle, Joe, were standouts in the 1970s.

Of course, the best Staeheli to ever come out of the school was Joline Staeheli (Andrzejewski), a 1991 state high school champion in the 1,600 and 3,200 meters before heading off to set school records, win NCAA Division I championships and earn All-American honors at Georgetown University.

Her highly-accomplished cousin never did win anything in state cross country, both as an individual or part of a team title. Laura Staeheli has — with the Lions’ Class 4A championship squad last season.

“Part of it, (the namesake) adds some pressure, just because your whole family is somewhat known,” Laura Staeheli said. “When college coaches talk to me, the first thing they ask is if I am related to Joline.”

This Staeheli is anything but slow on the trails.

As one of the key seniors, she has assumed much of the leadership role on a Bellarmine Prep team that should be in contention to defend its state title in Pasco.

“If you run for Matt Ellis (Bellarmine Prep coach), his standards are very high,” said Kevin Eager, the director of cross country at Gig Harbor High School. “There is an art to his coaching. He wants things done a certain way, and wants kids to buy in.

“Laura isn’t flashy. What she has done is lead that group.”

Her breakout really didn’t start until the postseason approached in 2013.

As Staeheli put it, she had not been “racing the way I had been training.” Moreover, right before the Narrows League meet, she hurt both hamstrings. When she walked around, she did with a noticeable limp.

But at the league meet, she ran her season-best time in the 5 kilometers at 19 minutes, 6.8 seconds.

“For league, it was just staying part of a pack,” Staeheli said. “It is just a different mindset racing as a team.”

The night before the state championships, Ellis got word that Staeheli was freaking out about the big race. So he gave her a pep talk, telling her to let all of her training and instincts take over once the race began.

“Laura has great mechanics and a beautiful stride,” Ellis said. “I told her if she was ready to race on this state course, you are going to run fast.”

Staeheli ended up being the real difference maker the next day by finishing second on her team — and 16th overall — with a personal-best time of 18:40.66.

“It was pretty amazing,” Staeheli said. “The first thing I did was run up to Ellis and tell him I’d done exactly what he told me to do. He just believed in me and knew I could do that.”

Helping her school win the state title sure made for a fun conversation when the extended Staeheli family — nearly 40 members attended Bellarmine Prep — got together for its usual Christmas dessert gathering in December. One of those attending was Joline, who is now an executive for a publishing company near Chicago.

“Ellis says, ‘Compete,’ and everything else will come,” Staeheli said.