With the Liberty Bell High School cross country team taking a week away from competition, the spotlight landed on the junior high teams and their performance at the Okanogan Invitational last Tuesday (Sept. 24).
On a day that defined the term “sunny Okanogan,” the boys dominated the top 10 in the 1.5-mile race on the immaculately groomed Okanogan golf course. Unofficially, because middle school meets are not typically scored for team results, the Mountain Lion Boys tallied a meet low 17 points, with five runners placing in the top 10.
Seventh-graders Dexter Delaney and Mac Surface led the way for the junior Lions, placing 2nd and 3rd close behind Lake Roosevelt’s Chase Marchand. They were so close that Marchand’s and Delaney’s times were identically listed at 7:58. Surface was just 5 seconds back at 8:03. Will Halpin placed 4th, Aksel Thompson was 6th and Brayden Schmekel finished in 7th to round out Liberty Bell’s top five. Johan Cruz of Manson inserted himself in fifth place to break up the Mountain Lion sweep.
Seventh-graders Tristan Hover and Sam Patterson rounded out the seven-member scoring team in 15th and 16th places, immediately followed by Kyler Mitchell and Landry Chrastina in 17th and 18th places, all four packed within nine seconds.
On the girls’ side, there were no teams with the requisite five runners for a scoring team. That didn’t stop the Mountain Lions from showing well, placing all four runners in the top 20. Eighth-grader Leki Albright was at the front of the pack all the way, crossing the finish line in 2nd place, 3 seconds behind Kaydence Carrington of Brewster. Liberty Bell’s Ayla Belsby was 7 seconds back in 4th place, Mia Libby in 11th and Zoe Kaltenbach 20th.
First-year coach Liam Daily was enthused by the middle schoolers’ performance in the combined boys and girls, seventh- and eighth-graders event. “The girls really like competing with the boys,” said Daily. The coed mixture “encourages all runners to push themselves harder and improve.” He also pointed out that the kids enjoy the company on the course, and it encourages pack running, which leads to low team scoring, a good thing in a cross country meet.
Liberty Bell’s top five runners crossed the line in a 33-second span. The 6th- through 10th-place Mountain Lion boys were packed in a 28-second span, with the top two girls, Albright and Belsby, putting themselves in that group of Mountain Lion boys.
Next up for the middle schoolers is the Ski Hill Invite at Leavenworth on Saturday (Oct. 5). The girls run at 10:20 a.m., the boys at 10:40 a.m.
The high school team is headed for the Nike Twilight at Marysville’s Cedarcrest Golf course, a large meet that will feature several state contending B schools from the west side, including four girls’ teams from the top 10 state poll, and three in the boys’ polls.