Boys’ squad improves on last year’s finish
The string of state 1B/2B titles for the Liberty Bell High School girls’ cross-country team was snapped by Pope John Paul II on Saturday (Nov. 9) at the WIAA championships in Pasco. But it was close, as the young Lady Lions battled the Eagles, and the 5-kilometer course, to finish only 6 points shy of their fourth consecutive first-place trophy.
With their second-place point total, the Liberty Bell girls did earn their fourth straight podium appearance, and have finished in the top five for five straight years. Pope John Paul II scored 96 points, Liberty Bell 102, St. George’s was third at 145 and Kettle Falls was fourth with 148 points. Meanwhile, the Liberty Bell boys improved on last year’s 10-place finish to claim the eighth spot.
Senior Gretta Scholz led the Liberty Bell girls’ effort with a strong third-place finish, Jori Grialou placed sixth, Liv Aspholm placed 30th, Stella Scholz 45th, Keely Brooks was 50th, Lindsay Worrell was 51st and Lena Nelson 71st in the 131-runner field. The elder Scholz missed the entire season last year because of injury. Her previous run at state in 2017 was a second-place finish behind teammate Novie McCabe.
Of her return, girls’ coach Sarah Brooks said, “Gretta once again set the pace for the team. It’s been so important to have Gretta back after an injury-filled junior season. She’s our sole senior and it makes such a difference to have that steady hand of a confident and enthusiastic senior leader on the team.”
Grialou, a sophomore, jumped three spots from her 2018 ninth-place finish, setting a personal record for 5K at 20:10. Junior Lindsay Worrell also ran her best ever (22:15) and classmate Lena Nelson (22:51) had her second-best performance of 2019. Those two, along with Aspholm and Brooks, are ready to step into the senior leadership role in the girls’ program.
A solid core of veteran runners, joined by a strong group of eighth-graders, gives Coach Brooks an optimistic outlook. “Next year, we’ll fill her [Gretta Scholz’s] big shoes with a suite of seniors, all of whom will provide their own form of leadership and inspiration to what we anticipate being a strong incoming freshman class and a deep group of returning runners. I suspect we’ll be pretty hungry to get another shot at bringing the championship back to the Methow Valley,” she said.
The Mountain Lion boys improved to eighth place in their tenth straight appearance at the annual championship. Junior Travis Grialou led the young Mountain Lions with a 21st-place finish. Ian DeLong was within shouting distance of Grialou, placing 31st, but only 17 seconds behind Grialou. Freshman Isaiah Stoothoff was 27 seconds behind DeLong in 58th, freshman Jackson Schmekel placed 71st, and set another personal best in his second ever varsity meet. His twin Tristan Schmekel was 101st, junior Oliver Orkand placed 123rd and sophomore Kieran Quigley was 134th in his first varsity race. Quigley was inserted into the lineup at the last minute to replace ailing freshman Graham Sheley.
The boys’ champion, for the seventh consecutive year, was Northwest Christian-Lacey. The Navigators had a meet low 70 points, followed by Pope John Paul II (98), Trout Lake (148) and local rival Manson (162). Brewster just missed the podium with 167 points.
Head Coach Erik Brooks was pleased with the performance of the boys at state. “We didn’t run the perfect race, but with five of seven personal records, and with our usual fourth runner [Sheley] sidelined by headaches and dizziness, we did a pretty fantastic job of competing in the fastest field and best overall state competition that I have seen in the last eight years.”
Brooks was also pleased by how both teams worked together to support and lift up each other. “Even as coaches, the consecutive streaks of state meet appearances [for both boys and girls] are easily taken for granted. The kids have proven time and time again that they are among the best in the state. And while state is the proverbial cherry on the top, it also doesn’t totally define a season or a group of kids.”
Sarah Brooks added, “The girls were, of course, disappointed that they didn’t successfully defend their title this year. That was a goal that they worked hard for all season and that was certainly a possibility. But, I don’t think I could be more proud of the team than I was on Saturday. They handled their loss with incredible grace and class, congratulating Pope John Paul II right away and with sincerity and then they turned to each other to celebrate some good races on the day and to comfort those for whom the race did not go as planned. I’ll take grace and kindness over a title any day. This valley can be very proud of their Liberty Bell girls’ team.”
With 10 straight years at or near the top, and three state academic titles along the way, Liberty Bell has earned its place among the elite of Washington’s 1B/2B class programs. And with only one graduating senior, as well as a stable of exciting middle schoolers about to step into Mountain Lion uniforms over the next two years, the immediate future continues to look bright.