Mile after mile has passed under Tom Bradley’s shoes. Gravel, dirt, pavement. It doesn’t matter. If its out there, he’ll run on it, and most likely at a blazingly fast speed. This year alone, he’s clocked around 2,700 miles in his daily workouts and races, all for one reason – to be the best.
“I train year round,” Bradley said. “You have to, and most of the guys in the conference do. You have to to be competitive, and I like to be competitive.”
Bradley’s drive paid off this year when he and his teammates qualified for the state championship meet as a team. It’s the
first time in 50 years Blaine High has qualified for the meet as a team, even though they have sent individuals most years. Only the top five teams from each district are eligible to compete in the state meet. “It was a good way to cap off the senior season,” Bradley said.
For 14-year cross country coach Carey Bacon, it was a dream come true. “We knew for a long time that we were shooting for that fifth spot,” he said. “[The guys] really kept that focus.”
It wasn’t an easy ride for the time, but they held on, and had quite a few victories along the way, including Bradley’s win at the conference meet where he set a new course record.
“It was pretty close,” senior Eddie Fontes said. “We wanted that goal, but we never expected it to happen.”
But happen it did.
The team began their training together over the summer, with Bradley taking on the responsibility of coaching them as part of his senior project. “It was a good way to put in time and do something I cared about,” Bradley said. “I recruited my friends and soccer players. I have to give them credit, it was hard, but they stuck it out.”
The team spent the summer building their mileage, taking long loping runs to get used to the distances, and then moved into speed-oriented workouts as the season progressed.
“You have to be dedicated,” Bacon said, noting that its not unusual for his seniors to put in 16-18 miles a day to stay on their A-game. “The competition is incredible. Whatcom County has the best cross country training going on in the state.”
It wasn’t until after districts were over that Fontes said they realized that what had once seemed a pipedream was actually a reality. “It was the most competitive boys team we’ve ever had,” Fontes said. Fontes attributed a lot of their success to Bradley’s undeterred motivation. “Tom really keeps training on target,” he said. “He pushes me when I get lazy, and the rest of the team, too.”
While both Bradley and teammate Eddie Fontes have qualified for state individually before, they said it was much more fun to be able to go as a team. “It was a lot more relaxed,” Bradley said. Blaine took seven team members to the meet in Pasco, where they competed against 1A, 2A, and 3A teams. “It was an amazing accomplishment,” Bradley said. “There were great performances from everyone.”
Bacon was thrilled with the team’s performance this year. “They responded well to the pressure. It was fantastic. What problems we had earlier in the year with kids starting late and not having enough girls were completely overshadowed by what we accomplished.” Bacon laments that they haven’t been able to recruit enough girls to field a team. “We’re so small. Next year will be hugely different because the seniors will be gone, and they were a huge part of the reason we made it.”
Bradley took second place at the state meet and Fontes earned eighth. Senior Danny Thorpe, juniors David Shapiro, Christian Sharp, John Cochran and freshman Parker Morris also competed at state.
Bradley also qualified for BorderClash, an invitational race that pits the best of Washington’s high school runners against the best of Oregon’s. The race is scheduled for Sunday, November 18 in Beaverton, Ore. and begins at 10 a.m.