For both the Lincoln boys and South Kitsap girls high school cross country teams success is just starting.
Lincoln sophomore James Mwaura took first place in the boys Tacoma City cross country championships on Wednesday at Wright Park. South Kitsap freshman Paxton DePoe captured the girls title in leading the Wolves to the team championship.
The Wilson boys team edged second-place Stadium for first in the team standings with 37 points. South Kitsap, behind DePoe and fellow freshman Kristina Ihlen, scored 27 points to outdistance second-place Stadium (50).
DePoe’s winning time over the 5,000-meter course — 20 minutes, 11.80 seconds — was just ahead of runner-up Ihlen’s 20:25.20.
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South Kitsap girls cross country coach Erin Fraser sees a bright future ahead for both.
“They are both very dedicated to the sport, and they came out all summer long running,” Fraser said. “They work hard during workouts. They are good students, good leaders, just all around good people.
“(They are) very strong and they just really love the sport of cross country, which I think really helps.”
Mwaura cruised to victory in the boys race in 15:56.60 — almost a minute ahead of second-place Casey Bennett of Wilson (16:42.90).
“My goal for this year is to be the state champion,” Mwaura said. “After that, to focus on nationals.”
Mwaura finished 34th at the Class 3A state championships last year. He is coming off a third-place finish at the Fort Steilacoom Invite, and a first-place effort at the Curtis Invite.
Lincoln coach Duane Lee said Mwuara’s early hard work is paying off.
“I thought he would be at this level maybe by his junior year,” Lee said. “But he is about a year ahead of where we thought he would be at this point, training and conditioning-wise.”
Lincoln senior Isaiah Retan said Mwaura works twice as hard as anyone else, and he is always the last person to leave practice.
“We wake up at 5:15 in the morning and we run around our neighborhood, come back before school, then we have track practice after school,” Retan said.
Rounding out the top five in the boys race was Wilson’s Parker Stachler (third in 16:45.50), South Kitsap’s Jacob Simon (17:04.70) and Stadium’s Will O’Halloran (17:14.30).
In the girls race, Wilson’s Sophia Baye was one of just two upperclassmen to finish in the top 10. The junior took third in 20:28.60.
But the South Kitsap freshmen stole the show. DePoe and Ihlen said that though they are young, they make up for it in hard work and dedication.
Cassandra Hebert, another South Kitsap freshman, said she has witnessed just how invested Depoe is in cross country.
“She works very hard and pushes herself, and sometimes she trains with the varsity boys,” Hebert said.