By Don Nelson
The Liberty Bell High School boys’ cross-country team again finished among the elite of the state’s 1B/2B schools by taking sixth-place at the state championships in Pasco on Saturday (Nov. 7).
And this year, the girls’ team can make the same claim: The Lady Lions, with four freshmen and a senior scoring crucial points, took fifth place in the state meet.
The girls were again paced by freshman Athena Milani, who took fifth place overall in the 5-kilometer race with a time of 19:48.7, and was the highest-finishing freshman in the field of 73 runners.
Madison Ward (19:11.9) and Marika Morelan (19:15.2), both of St. George’s, finished first and second in the girls’ race, but because St. George’s did not have five scoring runners, their team did not place in the final standings. The girls’ team title was won by Ocosta.
Senior Ben Klemmeck was the top finisher for the Liberty Bell boys, repeating his fourth-place finish of last year while beating his time on the same course by more than 11 seconds compared to the 2014 meet. Klemmeck covered the 5K course at Sun Willows Golf Club in 16:22.7; his time was 16:33.93 last year.
Winner of the boys’ race was a sophomore, Kenneth Rooks of College Place, in a time 15:44.6. The two Northwest Christian schools — Lacey and Colbert — dominated the top 10 finishers, but the Lacey school had more depth and took first place over the Colbert squad. Last year, the same two schools tied for first place.
With 166 points, Liberty Bell was just five points from taking fifth place. Sophomore Eli Nielsen finished 16th in a time of 17:03.4 for Liberty Bell, and was the third-fastest sophomore among the 141 finishers. Nielsen moved up from his 28th-place finish at the 2014 state meet, and slashed 24 seconds off last year’s time of 17:27.33.
Klemmeck and Nielsen were followed by sophomore Cade Quigley in 49th place, junior Carter Dornfeld in 79th place, freshman Emerson Worrell in 90th place, freshman Peter Aspholm in 100th place and senior Geza Sukovaty in 115th place. Liberty Bell’s average time for its five scoring runners was just under 18 minutes.
Oren Cox of Bridgeport, who shadowed Klemmeck in the league and district meets, finished seventh in a time 16:31.8.
Senior Ella Hall capped her season with a 23rd-place finish among the girls. She was followed by freshmen Icel Sukovaty in 29th, Ava Mott in 40th, Sage Borgias in 68th, Johanna Vollmer in 69th and Larkin Lucy in 71st.
Coach Craig Herlihy said that both teams ran smart, strong races.
Milani “ran an awesome race,” Herlihy said. “She really stepped it up.” Milani ran an average pace of 6:23 per mile, the coach said, compared to 6:46 per mile at the league championship meet a couple of weeks ago.
Herlihy noted that Milani now has the second-fastest time for a 5K in state meet in Liberty Bell history. Hall is now the fourth-fastest in the record book, Icel Sukovaty fifth-fastest, and Mott 10th-fastest.
Klemmeck already held the Liberty Bell record for the fastest 5K time at a state meet, and improved on that, Herlihy said. Nielsen is now the 10th-fastest in the record book.