Photo by Rick Lewis
The Liberty Bell boys’ and girls’ cross-country teams and coaches posed for a celebratory photo after last weekend’s state meet.

McCabe and Lady Lions are state champs again; boys rally for second place

By Don Nelson

A green tidal wave of Liberty Bell High School runners once again overwhelmed the field as the Lady Lions claimed their second consecutive girls’ 1B/2B cross-country state title last weekend in Pasco.

Liberty Bell sophomore Novie McCabe repeated her first-place finish over the 5,000-meter course on the Sun Willows Golf course, shaving 22 seconds off her 2016 winning time. She was followed by sophomore Gretta Scholz in second, junior Ellen Kuzyk in sixth, junior Athena Milani in seventh and junior Icel Sukovaty in 10th as Liberty Bell took the trophy with a remarkably low score of 23 points.

Remarkable in that it was even lower than last year’s winning Liberty Bell score of 24 points, which was then described as one of the lowest in the history of the state cross-country meet in any category (in cross-country, the lowest score wins, based on the placement of each runner).

Meanwhile, the Liberty Bell boys’ team repeated its second-place finish of 2016 with a solid team effort that demonstrated the value of depth. The Mountain Lions had just enough good performances to edge out St. George’s for second place, scoring 121 points to the Dragons’ 125.

Junior Walker Hall was the first Mountain Lion across the finish line in 14th place, followed a few seconds later by senior Eli Nielsen — running in his fourth consecutive state meet — in 15th. Two freshmen — Ian DeLong in 24th and Travis Grialou in 49th — were joined by junior Emerson Worrell (60th) in the Liberty Bell scoring contingent.

In team competition, each school can enter up to seven runners, but only the first five finishers can score points. For the girls, freshman Liv Aspholm was not far behind the leading pack in 15th place, while freshman Eva Weymuller finished 38th. Junior Lazo Gitchos finished 94th and junior Simon Studen 107th for the Liberty Bell boys.

The Northwest Christian (Lacey) girls’ team repeated its second-place finish in 2016 with a score of 51 points. The Northwest Christian (Lacey) boys’ team took first place for its fourth consecutive 1B/2B title.

Photo by Erik Brooks
Liberty Bell’s Novie McCabe, No. 1161, led the pack from start to finish in winning the individual title at the 1B/2B cross-country meet last weekend. The Lady Lions won their second consecutive state championship. Gretta Scholz, No. 1163, finished second.

Start to finish

A consistent front-runner, McCabe quickly took the lead quickly and put distance between herself and Scholz, as well as Trout Lake freshman Hannah Funkhouser, who eventually finished third. Scholz also cut 22 seconds from her time on the same course last year. Kuzyk ran a steady race that kept her in excellent scoring position.

Milani, running in her third consecutive state meet, typically finishes with a strong kick and the title race was no exception. She moved from 18th at one mile and 13th at two miles before finishing in seventh. Sukovaty, also appearing in her third straight state meet, advanced from 21st after one mile and 14th after two miles to pick up valuable points with her 10th-place finish. She improved her time by 24 seconds over 2016.

For the boys, Hall ran a very consistent race to finish a tick under 17 minutes — a 45-second drop over his 2016 time — and improve last year’s 29th-place finish. Nielsen ran the fastest of his four state meet races.

The Liberty Bell boys’ team, which won the 1998 state title, was making its eighth straight appearance at the state meet. For the girls, it was the continuation of a wholesale rebuilding program that began in Milani’s freshman year, when the Lady Lions took fifth place (Sukovaty was also part of the 2015 team as a freshman). In 2014, Liberty Bell had no runners in the girls’ race.

“Last year, the girls were loosely aware of their potential … but this year we were excited to defend the title,” said coach Erik Brooks. “This is a dedicated and tenaciously competitive bunch and they did not back down from any challenge all season long. And they are still growing and developing as runners — with more speed and consistency to come in future years.”

“The boys were missing two-time state competitor Cade Quigley due to illness — and yet we were still ‘that kind of team’ — deep enough and competitive enough and supportive of each other enough that we could go in to the state championships with a new mix of kids and a different combination of contributions, and still find a way to repeat on our performances from 2016.”

“It was closer then we wanted or hoped it could be on the boy’s side for sure, but the kids in the race put it all out there on the course,” Brooks added.

With growing participation in the program, Brooks said, “it’s becoming a real challenge to make that top seven spot as a varsity runner — and in this season with two teams defending their first- and second-place finishes from the year before, that is really starting to be the case.”

As for next year: The girls’ team Liberty Bell put on the course is not losing anyone to graduation. Among the boys who ran at state this year, only Nielsen is a senior.

1B/2B state championship, Nov. 41B/2B state championship, Nov. 4

Girls, 5,000 meters

Team scores: Liberty Bell 23, Northwest Christian (Lacey) 51, Ilwaco106, St. George’s 120, Asotin 131, Cedar Tree Classical Christian 133, Northwest Christian (Colbert) 166, Colfax 197

1. Novie McCabe 18:30.2
2. Gretta Scholz 19:06.4
6. Ella Kuzyk 19:55.8
7. Athena Milani 20:13.9
10. Icel Sukovaty 20:22.7
15. Liv Aspholm 20:44.8
38. Eva Weymuller 21:59.9


Boys, 5,000 meters

Northwest Christian (Lacey) 84, Liberty Bell 121, St. George’s 125, Asotin 158, Manson 163, Mt. Vernon Christian 180, Northwest Christian (Colbert) 191, Tonasket 191, Mary Walker 224, Ilwaco 232, Kalama 259, Tri-Cities Prep 265, Pope John Paul II 266, Adna 285, Three Rivers Christian 309, Crosspoint 502

14. Walker Hall 16:59.7
15. Eli Nielsen 17:02
24. Ian DeLong 17:26.6
49. Travis Grialou 18:02.9
60. Emerson Worrell 18:09.2
94. Lazo Gitchos 18:44.1
107. Simon Studen 18:59.1