By Oliver Lazenby
Runners on Blaine High School’s small cross country teams may not have placed well relative to runners from around the state at last weekend’s Hole in the Wall Invitational at Lakewood High School in Arlington but Borderite runners smashed their own records.
The meet was Blaine’s best of the season; everyone who ran had a personal best.
“Luckily, the temperatures were mild, so even though it was wet, kids did not get cold and it actually made for great racing conditions,” reported Blaine head coach Carey Bacon. “I can’t recall a race where every kid had a personal record.”
Blaine’s top finisher, freshman Masahide Shibuya, finished the 5,000-meter race 53rd out of 219 runners in the varsity boy’s division, with a time of 17 minutes and 35 seconds. Blaine junior Liam Lyons trailed just behind him, crossing the line in 17:44 for 61st place.
Others Blaine runners to achieve personal bests include George Cheatham, Eli Yost, Aiden Simpson, Devon Daly, Xavier Felmley, Jamie Good, Taylee McCormick and Sophia Dwyer. Dwyer’s time of 23:54 made her the fastest Blaine girl.
Shibuya and Lyons have run together and finished near the top all season. They came in second and third in a 4,000-meter race at Mount Baker High School on September 21. Shibuya won a 4,000-meter race in Whatcom Falls Park in Bellingham on September 14 against Squalicum and Nooksack Valley.
Blaine runners have improved throughout the season thanks to consistent training and mileage – an all-important factor in cross country.
The team has missed only one practice – September 29, when Blaine schools were closed and without power. That’s the only day off coach Bacon has allowed in his 18 years as coach, he said.
“The kids deserved it as we had been working really hard for the previous week,” he said. “One day off will not have a big impact on training; in fact, planned out rest is a tried and true technique for helping some runners perform better if done correctly.”
Despite personal successes, Blaine placed 23 out of 29 schools at the invitational. Blaine typically doesn’t score well as a team because other schools have much bigger cross country programs. The first five finishers score in a cross country meet.
In Blaine’s third-place finish against Sehome and Lynden Christian in its home meet on October 5 at Peace Arch State Park, nine Blaine boys finished the race. Lynden Christian had 10 finishers, and Sehome had 45.
The problem is more pronounced for the Blaine girls, who only have four runners – not enough to be an officially scoring team.
The program has had trouble in recent years attracting students. Athletics participation is steady for the school, but girls face ample other options for fall sports, said Blaine High School athletic director Wayne Vezzetti.
“In the fall they’re having to make choices between soccer, volleyball and cross country. We’re seeing more kids go to soccer and volleyball and that’s having an impact,” he said. “It’s a tough one and I’m not sure why. It’s been like that for a while. I know coach Bacon works hard to get a lot of kids out there.”
The program’s numbers could improve in the next couple of years. About half of this year’s athletes – and the majority of the boys – are freshmen and sophomores.
At the Peace Arch on October 5, Lynden Christian junior Brooks DeWaard got an early lead and stayed out front, crossing the finish line ahead of the next runner by nearly 30 seconds with a time of 17:51. Sehome’s Jacob Frazier and Tadeusz Pforte crossed the line next at 18:19.
Blaine’s leaders Liam Lyons (18:28) and Masahide Shibuya (18:33) came in fourth and fifth. Shibuya usually places ahead of Lyons.
“He wasn’t feeling too good, so I beat him in the last stretch,” Lyons said about his teammate, who crossed the line holding his side. Lyons said he felt strong and relaxed for the last lap, running with his teammate and seeing no one immediately on his heels.
The next six runners across the line were from Sehome, making them the winning team.
The Borderites’ next meet starts at 4 p.m. on Thursday, October 13 at Lake Padden Park in Bellingham.