By Don Nelson
Liberty Bell High School cross-country coach Craig Herlihy had predicted that, against more than 70 other schools at the Nike Twilight Invitational meet in Marysville last weekend, the Mountain Lion boys’ and girls’ varsity teams would hold their own.
That they did.
With freshman Novie McCabe chewing up the 5,000-meter course to take first place in the smaller schools (1B-2A) division by 30 seconds over her closest rival, the Lady Lions finished behind only perennial state champion Sehome and Anacortes — both larger schools. And Anacortes edged Liberty Bell by just four points in team scoring.
On the boys’ side, Liberty Bell finished ninth in team scoring with junior Eli Nielsen taking 16th place among more than 160 runners.
McCabe outdistanced Sehome’s Abby Johnson and Rosie Kirker, who took second and third. Not far back in ninth place among the field of more than 150 runners was Liberty Bell freshman Gretta Scholz in ninth, followed by sophomore Athena Milani in 14th, sophomore Icel Sukovaty in 24th, sophomore Ava Mott in 37th, freshman Rivers Leeman in 44th and senior Taya DeLong in 68th.
Freshman Walker Hall finished 47th for the boys team, followed by freshman Emerson Worrell in 61st, sophomore Peter Aspholm in 79th, senior Carter Dornfeld in 97th, junior Cade Quigley in 105th and sophomore Lazo Gitchos in 131st.
Also noteworthy for the Mountain Lions was the performance of junior Wes Olive, a transfer student who wasn’t eligible to compete with the varsity until this week. Olive took third place in the men’s open race, with a time that would have placed him 22nd in the varsity boys’ race.
“It was a great rolling course on Cedarcrest Golf Course,” Herlihy said this week. “With 79 total schools participating this race had somewhat of a championship style feel to it.”
Herlihy noted that McCabe, in her first year of varsity competition, may have been a surprise to many of the other schools but won’t be in the future.
“Novie took command of the race right from the start with a 5-second lead at the one mile, 12-second lead by the two-mile mark and finishing 34 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor,” Herlihy said. “Novie just red-lines her efforts every week.”
The coach was also pleased that Scholz and Milani finished near the front of the large field.
As for the boys, “Eli [Nielsen] had a solid race too, averaging a 5:23 pace over the 5K course, his fastest race of the season,” Herlihy said
In the girls’ junior varsity 9th- and 10th-grade race, sophomore Lucy Cole finished 30th and sophomore Sage Borgias 185th. For the boys, sophomore Henry Jones finished 168th, sophomore Simon Studen 181st, freshman Logan Hall 247th and sophomore Michael Mott 308th. In the boys’ junior varsity race for juniors and seniors, junior Tim Haley placed 151st.
“The coaching staff is quite pleased with the team results but now, with only four races left in the regular season, we have to start fine-tuning our race tactics and racers mental preparation for the post season,” the coach said this week. “Both the boys’ and girls’ teams have high but attainable goals for the season, so now is the time we all have to focus not only the racers physical strength but their mental strength as well.”
The Mountain Lions were in Chelan on Tuesday (Oct. 4) for a smaller meet, then will encounter another large field on Saturday (Oct. 8) at the Leavenworth Invitational.