By Mike Maltais
Though not yet running at full strength with a full field of athletes, the Liberty Bell High School varsity cross-country team nonetheless beat half of the division A teams that participated in the Wenatchee Invitational at Walla Walla Point Park last Saturday (Sept. 21).
Giants like 4A Moses Lake and Chiawana of Pasco were among the bigger schools that lagged behind the Mountain Lions as Ben Klemmeck, Liam Daily and Willy Duguay finished in the top half of varsity runners at the Wenatchee venue.
“I would consider the Wenatchee 3-mile course a slow one at Walla Walla Point Park,” said coach Craig Herlihy.
The coach explained that unlike the golf course fairway at last week’s Moses Lake Invitational, the Wenatchee course was softer and included high grass that usually contributes to slower times.
“That didn’t seem to bother Ben though, as he blazed to an outstanding sixth-place finish averaging a quick 5 minutes, 26 seconds per mile,” Herlihy said.
Klemmeck’s course time was 16:18.
Daily crossed the line in 13th place at 16:51 and Duguay was 29th in 17:42, “averaging 5:26 and 5:54 per mile respectively as they continue to lower their season’s race times,” Herlihy said.
Other varsity finishers included Josiah Klemmeck, 51st in 18:58, Logan Szafas, 69th in 20:06, and Carter Dornfeld, 72nd in 20:22.
Senior Morgan Ott, who posted a strong finish at Moses Lake last week, started at Wenatchee but had to pull out mid-way through the race with a side ache.
Senior and third-year XC veteran Lilly Schlotzhauer, the only girl on the varsity team this year, narrowly missed qualifying for state last season and seems determined to make up for that shortfall this time around.
“She crushed her pace-per-mile this week by improving by 29 seconds,” Herlihy said. Schlotzhauer completed the 3-mile course in 24:47.
“She surely has her sights set firmly now on qualifying for state in a mere five weeks,” Herlihy predicted.
Senior Erik Ellis finished 106th in a large field of junior varsity runners. Teammate Tyler Bergevin-Krumme was 144th.
At the junior high-level, eighth grader Tim Haley completed the 1.5-mile course in 18th place among 52 runners with a time of 10:07.
Lazo Gitchos and Zach Strong, both seventh-graders, placed 34th and 44th respectively.
Junior varsity competitors Geza Sukovaty and Corey Diamond did not compete, nor did several from the junior high ranks.
Medical Lake won the meet followed by Wenatchee, Hanford, Eastmont and AC Davis. The remaining schools that finished behind Liberty Bell included Quincy, Cashmere and Brewster, all 1A programs.
“We’re the only district 5/6 B team that will have run on this Walla Walla Point Park course this year before our state qualifying race here again in early November,” the coach noted. “That is quite an advantage for us over our B school competitors.”
The Mountain Lions will be at Silver Lake Park in Maple Falls for the Mount Baker Invitational Saturday (Sept. 28).
“We are scheduled to be at full strength, including all our junior high racers,” Herlihy said.