Photo by Rick Lewis

The Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross country team crowded the podium after taking first place in the 1B/2B race at the state meet in Pasco.

Lady Lions claim three-peat in state XC meet

Liberty Bell High School extended its dominance in girls’ cross country with a third consecutive title at the state 1B/2B meet on Saturday (Nov. 3) in Pasco.

And Liberty Bell junior Novie McCabe also captured her third straight individual title with one of the better times of the day — among all the competing classifications — on the 5-kilometer course, establishing herself as one of the elite high school runners in the state.

The Lady Lions’ team score was 56 — not as convincing as the past two years, when they scored 24 and 23 points (in cross country, the lowest score wins, based on the placement of a team’s first five finishers). But it was still a comfortable margin over second-place Asotin, and one of the lowest scores of the day among all teams in both girls’ and boys’ competition.

The Liberty Bell boys’ team finished in a tie for 10th place, after finishing second the previous two years.

Photo by Erik Brooks

Liberty Bell’s Novie McCabe, No. 1126, took first place in the 1B/2B final, finishing 50 seconds ahead of second-place Gabby Martin of Life Christian Academy.

Lady Lions stride to third straight cross country state title

McCabe also three-peats with first-place finish in 1B/2B race

By Don Nelson

It’s been said of some sports dynasties that they don’t rebuild, they reload.

The Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross country team came into the state 1B/2B championships last weekend with a different group of runners touring a different course, but the outcome was the same as the previous two years: first place and another team trophy.

Leading the pack of 116 runners at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course from start to finish was Liberty Bell junior Novie McCabe, who stood at the top of the winners’ podium for the third consecutive year.

Only McCabe, senior Ella Kuzyk and senior captain Icel Sukovaty were part of last year’s winning team. They were joined this year by freshmen Jori Grialou and Mahali Kuzyk, senior Ava Mott and sophomore Keeley Brooks.

“It was a good day for the girls, demonstrating our depth in running four different runners than we did in 2017, but still winning by 36 points,” head coach Erik Brooks said of the Lady Lions’ effort.

Photo by Rick Lewis

The Liberty Bell boys’ team tied for 10th place at the state meet, matching their pre-meet ranking in their ninth consecutive appearance at the 1B/2B finals.

Meanwhile, the Liberty Bell boys’ team, in its ninth consecutive state meet, finished in a tie for 10th place after taking second the previous two years.

The Lady Lions, rated No. 1 in the state coming into the meet, won with a score of 56 points, while Asotin was second with 92 points. Liberty Bell’s winning scores the previous two years were 24 and 23, both impressively low. The Lady Lions’ 2018 total was one of the lowest winning scores among all school classifications at the state meet on Saturday (Nov. 3).

In cross country, the lowest score wins, based on a team’s top five finishers (teams are allowed to enter up to seven runners). In the state meet, there were 12 1B/2B girls’ teams represented but also some individual runners who qualified for the meet while their teams did not. Those individual runners don’t count in the scoring.

Thus, Sukovaty finished sixth overall but fourth for scoring purposes in the 5-kilometer race. Grialou was ninth overall (seventh for scoring), Ella Kuzyk 23rd overall (14th for scoring), and Mahali Kuzyk 50th overall (30th for scoring).

McCabe’s time of 18:27.40, about 3 seconds faster than in last year’s victory, would have placed her second, third or fourth in the other larger-school classifications (1B/2B is the smallest). Sukovaty bettered her 2017 time by 13 seconds.

“A larger field of 116 runners this year versus 76 in 2017, more teams [12 compared to eight in 2017] and more individual qualifiers made for an exciting championship race,” Brooks said.

Photo by Erik Brooks

Liberty Bell’s Simon Studen, No. 121, Bodhi Kuzyk, No. 119, and Lazo Gitchos, No. 114, ran in a pack early on during the 5,000-meter race at Pasco.

“On the boy’s side we held serve by matching our 10th-place pre-meet ranking by finishing in three-way tie for 10th,” Brooks said. “We had some ups and downs on the day for certain but it was a hard-fought season in which getting back to state for the ninth year in a row was an accomplishment to build on.”

Seniors Emerson Worrell, Simon Studen and Lazo Gitchos all matched their best previous state meet times and finishes, Brooks said.

“Sophomore Travis Grialou [first among the Mountain Lion runners] had a strong last mile to move up well and finish just off of the 16-person podium in 18th place,” Brooks said. “And it was great to have underclassman Bodhi Kuzyk, Bellamy Kar and Cooper Legler getting some state meet experience.”

Among other boys’ teams that advanced from the District 5/6 meet, Manson was fourth with 176 points, Tonasket ninth with 239 points and Brewster 15th with 208 points. Northwest Christian of Lacey took first place with 59 points in the 16-team field, which included 154 runners.

As for reloading the girls’ team, McCabe, Grialou, Mahali Kuzyk and Brooks could all return next year, along with sophomores Liv Aspholm and Eva Weymuller, both state meet veterans, and junior Gretta Scholz, who finished second and third at the previous two state meets but was injured for the entire 2018 season. A strong group of younger runners is also coming up.

According to research by the Liberty Bell Booster Club’s Rick Lewis, McCabe’s third individual title places her in a select group of cross country runners. She is only the fifth to win three titles since the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association admitted girls to the state meet in 1973, joining Patty Matava (Bellevue, 1980-82), Laura Halverson (Freeman, 1998-2000) and Sierra Spieker (Oroville, 2010, 2011, 2013). Maddie Meyers (Northwest School, 2008-11) is the only four-time winner.

2018 state cross-country meet

Sun Willows Golf Course, Pasco

5,000 meters

Girls’ results

Team scores

Liberty Bell 56; Asotin 92; Rainier 122; Northwest Christian Lacey 137; Cedar Tree Classical Christian 159; Colfax 160; Trout Lake 170; Pope John Paul II 171; Ilwaco 178; Kettle Falls 197; White Swan 253; Republic 256

LBHS overall place/scoring place time

Novie McCabe 1/1 18:27.40

Icel Sukovaty 6/4 20:09.80

Jori Grialou 9/7 20:31

Ella Kuzyk 23/14 21:13.60

Mahali Kuzyk 50/30 22:29.20

Ava Mott 67/42 23:12.60

Keeley Brooks 78/47 23:34.30

Boys’ results

Team scores: Northwest Christian Lacey 59; Pope John Paul II 135; Asotin 148; Manson 176; Northwest Christian Colbert 194; Colfax 196; Kalama 202; Cedar Tree Classical Christian 217; Tonasket 239; Ilwaco 248; Liberty Bell 248; Life Christian Academy 248; Wilbur-Creston 272; Valley Christian 277; Brewster 308; Morton White Pass 341.

LBHS overall place/scoring place time

Travis Grialou 18/12 17:22.20

Emerson Worrell 31/22 17:45

Lazo Gitchos 90/60 18:44.80

Simon Studen 100/65 18:56.70

Bellamy Kar 127/89 19:44.60

Cooper Legler 132/92 19:51.90

Bodhi Kuzyk 142/100 20:13.20