By Mike Maltais 

Liberty Bell High School cross-country runners Zach Strong, left, Eli Nielsen, Lazo Gitchos, Brayden White, and Tim Haley are all in a group at the start of the 1.7-mile junior high race at the Mt. Baker Invitational last weekend. Nielsen placed first among the 58 runners to help the LBHS junior high team finish fifth overall. Photo courtesy of Lisa Wallis

Liberty Bell High School cross-country runners Zach Strong, left, Eli Nielsen, Lazo Gitchos, Brayden White, and Tim Haley are all in a group at the start of the 1.7-mile junior high race at the Mt. Baker Invitational last weekend. Nielsen placed first among the 58 runners to help the LBHS junior high team finish fifth overall. Photo courtesy of Lisa Wallis

Damp conditions were forecast for the Mt. Baker Invitational at Maple Falls last Saturday (Sept. 28), but the rain-soaked Liberty Bell High School varsity cross-country team still managed a solid sixth place among 14 schools, all of them 1A or larger.

Ben Klemmeck and Liam Daily again led the Liberty Bell striders with respective sixth- and 16th-place finishes among the 100 varsity runners that competed.

Eighth-grader Eli Nielsen, in his first year on the junior high team, posted the best finish for Liberty Bell with his first-place time of 9 minutes, 52.5 seconds among 58 runners in the 1.7-mile junior high race.

“Soggy and damp explains our day in the all-day rain at Maple Falls,” said coach Craig Herlihy.

The coach said that while it is generally favorable to run in the rain, the conditions at Silver Lake Park were tough on the runners, particularly the four-hour wait leading up to the varsity race.

“We arrived at 9 a.m.,” Herlihy said. “Varsity girls ran at 12:45, boys’ varsity at 1:15. Although we were under shelter it was difficult for the runners to relax before their race with the cold and damp conditions.”

Klemmeck completed the 2.97-mile course in 16:48.1 and Daily in 17:18.2.

Willy Duguay placed 43rd in 18:04.8, Morgan Ott 52nd in 18:29.7, Josiah Klemmeck 58th in18:47, Logan Szafas 90th in 20:31.1, and Carter Dornfeld 95th in 20:44.9.

The team’s only varsity girl, Lilly Schlotzhauer, ran the course in 24:52.3. Contrary to an error in last week’s XC story, Schlotzhauer did qualify for the state finals last year, the first Liberty Bell girl to do so since Sadie Bjornsen in 2004.

In the 2.97-mile junior varsity race, Erik Ellis finished 82nd out of 154 competitors. Geza Sukovaty was 99th, and Corey Diamond 119th.

“Tyler Bergevin-Krumme was our only runner not racing on Saturday,” Herlihy noted.

Eighth-grader Tim Haley finished a strong ninth place in the junior high race followed by Brayden White, 32nd, Lazo Gitchos, 34th, and Zach Strong, 44th, to help the junior high team bring home a fifth place overall.

It was the first junior high race for seventh-graders Lucy Cole and Sage Borgias but you wouldn’t guess that by their results. Cole placed fifth and Borgias 15th among the 77 girls competing.

“Their excitement after their race was very exciting to witness,” recalled Herlihy.

The XC team will travel to Chelan Thursday (Oct. 3) for the 2.3-mile Chelan Invitational at Lake Chelan State Park. Following a day’s rest the team will be at Lake Roosevelt National Recreation Area Saturday (Oct. 5) for the Can/Am Invitational.