"After two weeks of brutal workouts, the local runners proved that they are tougher than hills and thousand meter repeats," said Willapa Harbor Tri-District Coach Brad Donovan. "The local runners are strong, tough and getting faster.
"For both the girls and boys, this was a great effort," Donovan said. "I'm giving them grueling workouts and a lot of kids are fighting trough their own adversities. We missed Dominique Kudasik, who is out with abdominal pain, which kept the Valley girls from competing for today's team title.
"If you look at the kids, a number of them look like they are held together with athletic tape, but these kids are competitors and they are resilient," Donovan added.
In the girls' race, within 400 meters, a group made up of Jeseeka Hughes of Morton-White Pass, Bernadette Hayden of Onalaska and Rachael Buselmeier from Life Christian; separated themselves. A second group of four runners, including Valley sophomore Traci Hoffman, trailed by about 10 seconds, and just behind them were Valley's Jessica Cook and South Bend's Savannah Burbank.
At the mile mark, Hoffman had worked her way up to fifth and Jessica Cook had moved into eighth. At the 1.5 mile mark, Hoffman had overtaken third and Cook had moved up to fifth.
Meanwhile, Burbank was having a good run sitting in the top 15. Valley's Claire Borg was also having an amazing race sitting 23rd place, while Raymond's Tess Wilson and Valley's Katie Daniel were also having great races.
Jeseeka Hughes held off Hayden to take first place in 21:50. Hayden took second in 22:14. Going into the last 200 meters, Hoffman held off one more charge from a Morton-White Pass runner to finish third in 22:55. Just 24 seconds later, Valley senior Jessica Cook finished fifth. Burbank held on to her Top 15 finish while crossing the line taking 15th in 25:28. Claire Borg, despite a painful sinus infection, finished 25th. Tess Wilson of Raymond and Katie Daniel of Valley also set season bests. "Given what their legs have been through, these performances were really amazing," Coach Donovan said.
In the boy's race, a group of five established a lead group within the first 400 meters. Levi Munoz of Mossyrock, Zak Miller of Rainier, Evan Sutherland of Ilwaco, Camden Roberts of Life Christian and Riley Girt of Onalaska, all took off early to see who was going to come out of the trails in the woods on top.
Meanwhile, in a long secondary pack, Raymond senior Ben Meade and freshman Jachin Heckman, along with Jose Buccio of South Bend and Aaron deMontigney of Raymond, were all starting to establish spots that they could move up from.
At the halfway point, the five leaders had strung out a little and Sutherland of Ilwaco made a move to the front of the pack. Heckman and Meade were still in the same pack and Valley freshman Ryon Ashley moved up to challenge Buccio and deMontigney. "Tomi Tanaka was starting to feel the effects of two weeks of brutal workouts. but still holding on to a near personal best," Coach Donovan said. Coming to the finish chute, Sutherand of Ilwaco had won the battle on the trails while taking first in17:46. Rainier's Zak Miller finished second in 18:02, followed by Munoz of Mossyrock (18:11), Roberts of Life Christian (18:15), and Onalaska's Riley Girt, who was fifth in 18:18.
Meanwhile, Jachin Heckman passed about eight runners to finish 14th in 19:50. Ben Meade, who was fighting through shin splints, still was able to crack the Top 20 in 20:32. Ryon Ashley, Valley's emerging freshman, placed 35th in 21:54, ahead of Buccio (40th in 22:16) and deMontigney (43rd in 22:30); Tanaka finished in 27:18.
"In three weeks we will be on this same course to see who goes to State and to prove how much we have improved," Coach Donovan said. "This is exciting and nerve wracking. It is awesome!"