“The course featured a muddy hill at the ½-mile mark that had become slurry after the night’s rain,” Willapa Harbor Tri-District Head Cross Country Coach Brad Donovan described to the Herald. “Several of the runners fell and clawed their way on all fours until they could regain their footing. On the backside others slipped their way down,” Donovan continued. “Once that was over, the course was largely paved with long gradual uphills and downhills. The weather had cold wind gusts and rain showers. It was brutal on the legs and feet, but it provided a race that tested every runner’s physical and mental preparedness.”
The Boys race was first. This was the state-qualifying meet where four teams and 20 boys would advance to the state meet in Pasco.
In the end, Northwest Christian put seven runners in the Top 10 scoring with a nearly perfect 19. Host school, Mossyrock, took 2nd in the team honors with Onalaska and Three Rivers Christian also qualifying.
The runners from the harbor showed that they were up to the challenge of the demanding course. The harbor boys negotiated the mud hill. Jose Buccio of South Bend fell but got going again almost immediately. At the one and a quarter mile mark Aaron deMontigny was slightly ahead of Buccio followed closely by Raymond’s Ben Mead and Valley’s Dominic DeLong. As the field of runners started the uphill on the pavement, the pace picked up. Jose Buccio and Aaron deMontigny locked into a duel in the last ½-mile.In the end it was Buccio of South Bend who prevailed, finishing 30th in 20:38 and deMontigny to 31st in 20:39. Raymond’s Ben Meade took the 35th spot in 20:55. Dominic DeLong of Valley crossed in 44th (21:41). Raymond Glover, racing for only the second time since spending six weeks in a boot finished 48th (22:02). And Koda Boothe of South Bend was running with a painful hamstring and the mud hill further strained it, refused to stop despite the pain and crossed in 58th in 24:17.
The girl’s race followed the boy’s race in order to give the girls from districts 1, 2 and 3 time to drive down from the Seattle area. On the two-year allocation, the northern districts had few girls’ teams, so it was a combined district race. After the boy’s race, the mud had become a chewed-up slurry and with only 15 spots open for state, there was no shortage of intensity. Going into the woods, Jessica Cook and Dominique Kudasik of Valley were in 23rd and 24th place. At the one and a quarter mark, Kiersten Kimminau of Northwest Christian took control with teammate Anna Brooks and Yzaguire behind. Kudasik had moved into 12th place and Cook was in 14th. Amazingly, freshman Traci Hoffman of South Bend was in 17th. With half the race to go, the runners disappeared into the upper half of the course filled with the long grinding hills. When the runners appeared again with ¼-mile left, things had become more intense. Word was that Hoffman was right behind Cook and Kudasik. The runners had to take a hard U-turn from the pavement to grass for the last 70 yards.
Kimanu of NWC hit the tape in 19:14. Meanwhile, Cook had accelerated down the hill, moved up with Kudasik and Hoffman right behind. Five girls were on the grass near each other with 50 yards to go. Hoffman, threw in a monster surge going past Kudasik, Cook, and Lina Hoffman of Northwest Christian and with a lean edged Kathryn Anderson of Ocosta taking 8th in 21:44 and a ticket to state. Cook fought through the finish and staggered through the finish in 21:50 good enough for 11th.Right behind her was Kudasik in 21:54 who fell, completely spent, at the finish line good enough for 12th.Kudasik beat Ocosta’s Gunderson (13th) by two seconds and Adna ‘s VonBargen (14th) by four.
Three harbor area runners had just punched tickets to state. But runners were still coming in. Savannah Burbank of South Bend out dueled an Adna runner to finish 36th in 24:13. Finishing in 40th in 24:44 was Yessenia Perez of South Bend. Fighting off a charging Mossyrock runner and sore legs Denise McDonald of Valley took 46th in 25:59. Dueling as a pack Mariah Silvera of Valley, Iris Heckman of Raymond and Katie Daniel of Valley may train together but this was a race. Silvera nipped Heckman at the line taking 51st and 52nd respectively; Daniel took 53rd. South Bend’s Tessa Wilson came in 62nd and Miriam Naranjo of Valley crossed in 65th. The mud hill had claimed a victim.Diania Morales of South Bend had twisted her ankle and couldn’t finish the race.
In the team standings Northwest Christian took top honors with 30 points followed by Ocosta in 2nd with 60 and Morton White Pass also going to state with 77 points.
“The harbor runners had performed fantastically,” Donovan said. “It is sad to see the end of the season for most of these runners. This is a great group to spend the afternoons with. They will whine in fun and then work harder than anyone should ever push themselves.”