The Olympia High School girls cross country team may have added the final piece in its quest to find the Class 4A state podium.
Kiersten Kimminau, a junior transfer from Class 2B cross country powerhouse Northwest Christian, will round out a seasoned Olympia team, which returns its top four runners from last season.
All five girls — including Kimminau, sophomore Stella Grimsted, junior Ariel Wilhite, and seniors Brenna Carlson and Maia Halvorson — placed sixth or better in their respective races Saturday at the Capital Invite.
The annual meet featured 35 schools and 892 athletes that ran a 2.23-mile course. It was structured by grade level and gender — four races for the boys, freshman through senior, and four for the girls.
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Kimminau broke out in the junior girls’ race to place second with a time of 14 minutes, 43.05 seconds.
“She’s a really good runner … she’s good to push the pace,” Grimsted said.
Grimsted returns as Olympia’s top runner — she placed 26th at the Class 4A state meet in 2014 as a freshman, and took third in the sophomore girls’ race Saturday at 14:30.43.
As it stands after Saturday, Kimminau is No. 2.
Kimminau and her family moved to the Olympia School District during the offseason so she could run for a varsity team at the Class 4A level.
“I have really high goals for academics and athletics, so my parents and I thought a bigger school would just be a better fit for me,” Kimminau said.
For the past two seasons, Kimminau was Northwest Christian’s No. 1 female runner, placing third as a freshman and fourth as a sophomore at the Class 1B/2B state meet.
Kimminau was hesitant to make the move to a larger school following her freshman year, but decided it was necessary by the end of her sophomore season.
“The more competition I have, the more I can push myself,” Kimminau said. “That’s a big part of it.”
There is plenty of competition — even within her own team. The Bears finished 10th as a team at the state meet last season, and look sharper this year.
Coach Cris Violette, who is entering his 10th season as the head of the program, said this is the best girls team he’s ever had.
“There’s a good pack that are in the 19s and could drop to the 18s,” Kimminau said. “So, I don’t know where you could go with that, but probably pretty far.”
Violette likes to think so.
“Hopefully we’re at a level to get on that podium,” he said.
LUKE SCHILTER BRIEFLY HOLDS COURSE RECORD
Northwest Christian’s Luke Schilter took first place and broke the course record in the junior boys race, posting a time of 11:28.42.
He held onto it for about an hour before Issaquah’s Kennan Schrag ran a 11:27.04 in the senior race.
Across the four boys’ races, the Navigators had four finishers in the top 10 including Schilter, junior Corban Phillips, and seniors Colton Buster and Luke Bredeson.
“This is the best they’ve ever done, the boys,” Northwest Chrisitan coach Larry Weber said. “A lot of them placed in the top 10 or 20 in every race. They had a good day.”
The Navigators boys are the defending Class 1B/2B state champions.
T-BIRDS’ ERICKS VYING FOR INDIVIDUAL TITLE
Tumwater senior Lauren Ericks is beginning her campaign for a third consecutive berth to state — and she’s doing it without toenails.
“They’re growing back now,” Ericks said. “They’re almost there, back to normal. But I’ll definitely be clipping them regularly.”
Ericks had her two big toenails removed last spring during track season after her running spikes, which didn’t allow her toes enough space for movement, caused trauma. She said the removal procedure involved eight shots of local anesthetic in each toe.
Following the procedure, Ericks said she laid in bed for a day before she was up and about. She hasn’t slowed down since.
She placed fourth in her race Saturday in a field of 71, with a time of 15:17.42.
Ericks — who placed 10th at the Class 2A state meet last season with a time of 19:23.34, and took 32nd as a sophomore — said she is aiming to break the top five at this year’s state meet.
Thunderbirds coach Rich Brown believes she is a candidate for an individual title.
“She’s physically capable of it,” he said. “It’s just a matter of keeping her on track, keeping her healthy. It’s hers to pursue.”
Lauren Smith: 360-754-5473