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Runner-up Raiders ready for state
By CASEY OLSON
It was hard to miss the neon yellow and maroon jerseys the girls cross country team at Thomas Jefferson were donning at Saturdays Westside Classic district championships at the American Lake Golf Course in Lakewood. Even with the 150 runners competing in the Class 4A girls race, the Raiders stood out from the crowd as did their performance.
The Jefferson girls finished in second place behind top-ranked Gig Harbor Saturday. The Tides had the low point total with 54. The Raiders finished with 63, followed by third-place Bellarmine Prep (146 points). The top-seven teams from Saturdays meet qualified for state.
The girls ran well, said head coach Paul Ruston. Last year our team average (at the district championships) was 19:48 and this year it was 19:10.
The biggest improvement came from senior Hilorie Hildebrandt. Last year, Hildebrandt finished the 3.1-mile course at American Lake in 19:53 and this year she cut over a minute off that time by finishing in fourth-place overall in a time of 18:43.
But it was junior Kenna Patrick who led the way for Jefferson once again. Patrick followed up her victory at last weeks South Puget Sound League Meet with a solid third-place finish Saturday at the Westside Classic.
Patrick ran fifth at last years district championships in a time of 19:04, but dropped her time to 18:30 at this years meet. Bellarmine Preps Nichole Cochran rolled to the easy win in a time of 18:07, followed by Gig Harbors Kesslee Payne in 18:15.
The Raiders had five of their six runners finish in the top-29 places at the Westside Classic. Vanessa Bennum was 13th overall in 19:22, Camryn Patrick was 19th in 19:33 and Meridith Dyer was 29th in 19:51. Jeffersons sixth runner, Natalie Jarvey, finished in a time of 20:18. In comparison, Gig Harbor had their top-five runners all finish in the top-22 places.
The Raiders performance in the girls race was a solid precursor to Saturdays Class 4A State Cross Country Championships, which will be held at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. Things seem to be set up perfectly for Jefferson to improve on last years fourth-place finish as a team, which was the highest ever for the Raiders.
The goal for state is simple to run faster times than we did at districts, Ruston said.
Jefferson entered the district meet as the fourth-ranked team among Class 4A cross country teams in Washington behind Gig Harbor, who is also ranked 13th in the nation and clearly the state meet favorite, Snohomish and Bellarmine Prep.
Gig Harbor is such an outstanding team, Ruston said. Based on our recent performances, I thought that we could be competitive against them. Team time-wise, they beat us by 47 second, which is still a decent time margin.
The Thomas Jefferson girls team will be joined in Pasco at the state meet by Decatur senior Becky Williams and Beamers McKinley Williams. Both qualified as individuals by finishing in the top-35 at the district meet.
Becky Williams ended up in ninth place overall in a time of 19:09 and McKinley Williams was 30th in 19:52. Both runners competed at last years state meet.
Thomas Jefferson senior Erik Church will make his second consecutive appearance at the Class 4A state championships. Church finished up in sixth place at Saturdays Westside Classic at the American Lake Golf Course.
Auburn Riversides Joe Churchill won the race in dramatic fashion over Kentwoods Michael Chinchar. Both runners were timed at 15:26, but Churchill outleaned Chinchar at the finish line. Church finished 11 seconds back in a time of 15:37.
Church will be joined at the 4A state race by Decaturs Justin Englund and TJs Serge Marchenko. Englund finished up in 23rd place overall in a time of 16:17 and Marchenko ended up 36th in 16:28. Saturday will be both runners first appearance at the state championships.
None of the Federal Way school district teams finished in the top-eight automatic state-qualifying spot. Tahoma won the team title with 71 points over Auburn Riverside (123). The top SPSL South team, Puyallup, finished in 13th place.
Sports editor Casey Olson: 925-5565, email@example.com