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CROSS COUNTRY: TJ girls count on new runners, Eagles find new coach
The Thomas Jefferson girls have been the gold standard in cross country. Over the past 11 years, the Raider girls have qualified for the state meet as a team 10 times. Last year they finished in ninth place overall.
TJ will be counting on several new runners after graduating their top three from a season ago, led by Kelin Doner, who finished 15th at the ultra-competitive Fort Steilacoom Invite earlier in the season.
However, there is a different air about the Federal Way High School cross country program this fall.
No longer is longtime head coach Jean Licari patrolling the start/finish line, barking out encouragement to runners. Licari, 45, died of a rare form of cancer in January.
Chris Williams takes over the program from Licari and hopes to build on what she started.
The Eagles return plenty of talented runners from a season ago, especially on the girls’ side. The Federal Way girls finished 6-2 a season ago and bring back senior Khiana Duncan and sophomores Aminata Dolo, Rachel Arnold and Kayla Jacobus. Three freshmen — Karina Abramchuk, Ariya Kendrick and Kaitlin Radford — will also contribute.
On the boys’ side, Federal Way finished a disappointing 2-6 last season, but should improve this season. The Eagles will be led by junior Mussie Simon, whose older brother, Meron, is now one of the top 10 milers on the University of Washington track team.
Other strong runners for the boys should be seniors Dan Hart and Tremaine Rambo, junior Kenai Brazier and freshman Connor Low.
“We will be successful if we continue to work hard and learn from our successes, as well as failures,” said coach Chris Williams. “Every day we continue to work toward becoming a better student-athlete and if we can become better each and every day, we will eventually get where it is we want to be.”
Williams did get some bad news when junior Mitch Stewart returned to the tennis court at Federal Way after turning out for the Eagle cross country team early in the season. Stewart won the state singles championship a season ago.
Williams said Stewart had the potential to finish in the top 10 at the state cross country meet.
Beamer should also be a force in the SPSL South. On the boys’ side, the Titans return plenty from a team that finished 15th overall at the state meet, including their three top runners in juniors Haftom Tafere and Blake Hansen, and sophomore Austin Jex.
Tafere was the top finisher at the state meet last year in 58th place. Jex was 97th and Hansen was 100th overall.
The Titan girls bring back Paige Hallstrom, who finished 60th as a ninth-grader at state.