By Don Nelson
If other cross-country runners around the state haven’t figured it out yet, Liberty Bell High School’s unbeaten freshman, Novie McCabe, is a frontrunner — which means hanging back and hoping to overtake her once she claims the lead is likely a losing proposition.
McCabe took charge early in the race to win in course record time, and the Lady Lions varsity cross-country team took first place last weekend at the Leavenworth Invitational over a 2.8-mile route.
They did it against impressive competition. Liberty Bell, which finished one point ahead of 2-A Selah, was the only B-classification school among the 16 teams that scored, competing against four 4-A, two 3-A, five 2-A and four 1-A schools.
On the boys’ side, competing without two of their top runners, the Mountain Lions finished fourth in the small-schools division and 13th overall out of 27 varsity teams.
The Lady Lions’ five scoring runners finished in the top 27 among 217 competitors: freshman Gretta Scholz in eighth, sophomore Athena Milani in 11th, freshman Rivers Leeman in 23rd and sophomore Ava Mott in 27th. Sophomore Icel Sukovaty was 39th, senior Taya DeLong was 45th and sophomore Lucy Cole 81st. McCabe beat second-place Abbie Steinhauer of Mariner by 22 seconds and shaved two seconds off the course record.
“To have our first five scoring members finish in the top 27 in a field of 217 is surely dominating,” coach Craig Herlihy said. “We still have to work out a few kinks in the next few weeks, but the girls are enjoying their team success thus far this season.”
Freshman Walker Hall was the top finisher for the boys’ team in 24th place, followed by junior Cade Quigley in 63rd, freshman Emerson Worrell in 80th, senior Carter Dornfeld in 89th, sophomore Peter Aspholm in 93rd and sophomore Lazo Gitchos in 97th. Eli Nielsen and Wes Olive did not compete for Liberty Bell.
“Walker [Hall] keyed on some ‘local’ (Tonasket, Brewster and Omak) competitors and out-sprinted their top runners on the final hill to the finish,” Herlihy said.
The race on the ski hill at Leavenworth took place in what Herlihy called near-perfect conditions, with the temperature in the mid-50s.
“Our team members surely seem to like this two-lap, rolling course in the woods at the ski hill,” the coach said. “There is nothing flat on this course, it’s either going up or down and even the start and finish are on a substantial hill. ‘Hills are our friends’ was our overall theme for the day.”
The Lady Lions also dominated the junior high race, with Liv Aspholm in second place to lead four Liberty Bell runners among the first 10 finishers (full results had not been posted earlier this week).
In the boys’ junior varsity race, junior Tim Haley led the Mountain Lions in 51st place, followed by sophomore Henry Jones in 67th, sophomore Simon Studen in 75th, sophomore Michael Mott in 187th and sophomore Zach Strong in 187th. Liberty Bell finished 12th in JV team scoring.
Earlier in the week, Liberty Bell competed in a smaller meet at Chelan that also included Tonasket and Cashmere, over a 2.4-mile course that featured varsity teams only.
“With this past week’s primary focus on the Leavenworth race, our approach to the Chelan race was to address it with a workout mentality,” Herlihy said. “We stressed various training tactics during the pre-race plan, in which all the runners followed, and the girls still came out with a win. The boys’ team finished third.”
McCabe won the girls’ race and the Lady Lions placed eight runners in the top 10 finishers. The boys were led by Olive in sixth place overall as the boys placed three other runners — Nielsen, Worrell and Hall — among the top 12.
Liberty Bell will be at the Oroville Invitational on Saturday (Oct. 15), then host the Central Washington B League championship meet on Oct. 22.