Leki Albright and Dexter Delaney used strong pushes in the last third of their 5-kilometer races to win top individual honors at Saturday’s Liberty Bell Invitational cross country meet, held on the Methow Valley School District campus under sunny and unusually warm conditions.
In the team races, the Liberty Bell boys edged Cashmere, 38-42, with Brewster not far back at 54 points. The Mountain Lion girls placed 2nd in the team standings behind Republic-Curlew, the Tigers narrowly outpointing the local girls, 29-31.
Scoring in cross country is based on the finishing order of a team’s the top five runners. The lower the score, the higher the place. Teams with fewer than five runners do not affect the team scores, regardless of individual placing.
Delaney and teammate Will Halpin separated from the field early and ran as a duo until the Mountain Lion sophomore began to pull away from his junior teammate about 1K from the finish line.
Albright and Brewster’s Kaydence Carrington, in a familiar racing scenario, hooked up to pull away from the pack early, Albright taking control and separating from Carrington in the second half of the race to win by 15 seconds.
Led by Albright, the Liberty Bell girls were bolstered by strong performances from junior Sandra Hernandez (5th), sophomore Zoe Kaltenbach (9th) and a pair of eighth-graders in Ingrid Venable (12th) and Yasmin Moore (16th). Moore and Venable stepped up from the 1.5-mile middle school course to the 3.1-mile (5K) high school competition to help complete a scoring team for the Mountain Lions.
With Delaney and Halpin running in the top two positions, the Mountain Lions needed solid performances from the rest of the team in nipping the Bulldogs by 4 points. Liberty Bell’s No. 3 runner Aksel Thomson finished in 8th place. Jackson Schmekel and Kyler Mitchell kept Cashmere’s No. 6 and 7 runners in their dust to hold off the Wenatchee Valley 1A school and preserve the top spot for the host team.
Tristan Hover and Jayden hammer rounded out the Liberty Bell top seven in 24th and 30th places, respectively, in the 70-runner field.
Only four weeks from the WIAA state championships, the Mountain Lions finally were able to field two complete varsity teams. A series of injuries and illnesses had kept both the boys and girls from having the required five runners in a number of early season competitions.
Next up for the Mountain Lion harriers is the Lake Spokane Invitational at Nine Mile Falls, northwest of Spokane. There are a number of larger schools scheduled for that meet, which will also provide a sneak preview at the District 5/6 state qualifier as Warden’s Cougars will also be running. The Mountain Lions had been scheduled to race at the Leavenworth Ski Hill this Saturday, but smoky conditions and poor air quality have shut down that traditional stop for Liberty Bell this year.
Mountain Lions swept by Bears
Brewster’s Bears swept Liberty Bell in three sets last Thursday (Oct. 6) in a North Central Washington 2B League volleyball match, 25-9, 25-19 and 25-12, but the loss in the standings was shadowed by a much bigger loss on the floor.
The match, played in the Lions’ Den at Liberty Bell, was marred in the first set when Mountain Lion senior captain Ellie Blank went down with an apparent injury to her left knee. She was eventually helped off the floor to the sideline bench.
Blank left the gym with her father. Head coach and mother, Beth Blank, also left at the end of the first set. Assistant coach Stephanie Mitchell assumed the reins.
“Manipulation testing was negative and her knee looked very stable,” Beth Blank reported on Saturday, “so (we’re) thinking meniscus involvement.”
Ellie Blank had just returned to Mountain Lions activities after missing her junior year while recovering from surgery to repair a ruptured anterior cruciate ligament in her right knee. She suffered that injury in August 2021 at a tennis camp in the Seattle area.
Beth Blank said the injury ends Ellie’s senior season of volleyball. “She will start rehab Tuesday,” the coach said. “We will determine if an MRI [magnetic resonance imaging] is needed after that. Her goal for the next five months is to be ready for tennis and qualify for state.”
The Mountain Lions showed some life in the second set after the loss of their lone senior and captain, jumping out to a 6-1 lead before the Bears began to chip away. Liberty Bell’s last lead came at 13-12 as Brewster tied it up at 13 and powered through for the 25-19 win. The Bears, led by senior Abi Boesel, rolled through the third set, 25-12 and completed the home-and-home season sweep, winning both matches by 3-0 scores.
Mountain Lions blanked by Kendrick
In a game that started out promising between two highly ranked 8-man football teams, the No. 10 nationally ranked Kendrick, Idaho, Tigers came out on top as the Mountain Lions elected to forfeit last weekend’s game with 1:32 remaining in the first half, down by a score of 30-0.
Kendrick scored on their first drive to take a 8-0 lead on a two-point conversion. Liberty Bell’s first drive held all kinds of promise, as the Mountain Lions drove most of the length of the field guided by quarterback Riley Lidey. Liberty Bell moved mostly on the ground, with Lucien Paz hitting holes and breaking tackles, but the drive stalled on a fourth down and 5 yards to go at the Tigers’ 15 yard line.
The Tigers scored twice more to take a 22-0 lead at the end of the opening quarter, and added eight more points on a second quarter touchdown with two-point conversion for the final score.
There had been some fireworks between the two teams throughout the early part of the game, with several personal foul/unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. The tone grew somber when Mountain Lion sophomore Lucien Paz, while running up the sideline in front of his team’s bench, was taken out by a hard tackle and forced to leave the game with a possible concussion.
Paz appeared to have taken a blow to the head either on the hit, or when he hit the ground. He spent the rest of the half on the bench, having been taken out of the game under the National Federation of High Schools’ (NFHS) concussion protocols.
“Their concussion specialist seemed to think he was okay and cleared him for play,” said coach Jeff Lidey. “At that point in the game I just didn’t want to take a chance.”
The Moscow-Pullman Daily News reported that a member of the Liberty Bell coaching staff was ejected at that point in the game by the officiating crew, all from the Idaho Officials Association. There were some words exchanged and Paz’s brother Remy, a freshman, became visibly upset, an unidentified teammate escorting him away from the scene near the Mountain Lion bench.
Both coaches met with the officiating crew in an elongated conversation on the field after the dust had settled from the sideline activity. Lidey said the conversation was mostly about the style of play, and asked for player safety as a consideration in how the game was to be conducted from that point forward.
“I could tell that we were not a good match for them,” said Lidey in a Monday afternoon interview. “I was hoping that they might start playing some of their younger players and tried to let them know I didn’t think this was a good match-up.”
Lidey said that the Mountain Lions weren’t prepared to play the style of football being allowed in Idaho. “We’ve been teaching our kids for years now how to tackle without going toward the head and have been changing our style of play to match the new safety standards,” he said.
Evidently, Idaho isn’t doing that. “They’re still old school and their games are, apparently, called that way. We just weren’t ready for it,” Lidey said.
Things came to a head with about a minute and half remaining on the first half clock. With Liberty Bell in possession and down 30-0, Riley Lidey rolled out to his right on a play designed for a pass. Lidey instead pulled the ball down and sprinted up the sideline toward midfield.
When the pressure closed in, he stepped out of bounds, apparently taking three or four steps decelerating when a Tiger defender crossed the sideline and hit Lidey as if he was still on the field of play, knocking him off his feet into the bench area. It was then a Liberty Bell player entered clearly after the end of the play and launched himself at the Tiger defender. Penalty flags flew but it was not made clear as to whether the flag flew for the Tiger late hit, or for the Mountain Lion late hit, or for both.
Another elongated discussion ensued, and then an announcement from the game referee that the game was being terminated, Kendrick declared the winner as Liberty Bell had decided to forfeit.
Lidey seemed unclear as to what exactly came out of the final play. “They threw a flag, and obviously Conner [Arndt] got one for the really late hit.” But the coach still wasn’t sure, on Monday, if Kendrick was nailed for the late hit.
“I told them in the earlier discussion that I didn’t feel my players were safe and was asking for them to be protected a little better. When Riley got hit on the sideline out of bounds, I decided that it was too unsafe for our players to continue and told them we were forfeiting the game,” the coach said.
Lidey stopped short of accusing Kendrick players of playing dirty, but did say there was a lot of chipping out on the field. “Yeah, we can be a little chippy from time to time, our players are competitive. But it went both ways. For their coach to blame our kids in the newspaper wasn’t right, though.”
Senior Conner Arndt was the Mountain Lion tagged with a flagrant unsportsmanlike penalty for the late hit. According to Activities Director Michael Wilbur, Arndt will have to miss the next two Liberty Bell games, including this weekend’s Homecoming tilt with Bridgeport, a penalty established by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association (WIAA). The penalty applies, even with the game being played in Idaho, under rules set forth by the NFHS.
The 4-2 Mountain Lions face Bridgeport this coming weekend, scheduled for a 7 p.m. Friday night kickoff. Because of a shortage of football officials, the game may have to be rescheduled for Saturday afternoon.
Football also added to the Liberty Bell infirmary this week. Damien Spears has been ruled out for the season with a fractured patella suffered in the game at Kendrick, and Lucien Paz is day-to-day after his sideline collision.
Mountain Lions fall to Fillies
The Mountain Lion girls looked to build on the momentum garnered from their big soccer win at Oroville, and hoped that would carry them to victory at Bridgeport last Thursday. Alas, the girls lost a 4-1 decision to the Fillies in a tough battle that still showed some improvement defensively.
Sophomore Alea Colin found the back of the net for the only Mountain Lion score, and Lilly Belcher was solid in the net. A pair of Filly goals came on shots that got behind her while coming out from the goal to make a play.
Soccer was not immune to the injury bug as eighth-grader eighth grader Kara McMillan suffered an ankle injury late in the match that sent her to the sidelines for the remainder of the evening. The extent of the injury appears to be a mild sprain. Her status for Thursday’s home match with Lake Roosevelt is uncertain, but Coach Katie Overbeck is optimistic that the week’s rest will help get her back on the pitch for the Raiders.
Tuesday’s home match with Okanogan began after the News went to press. The Thursday match will kick off at 5:30 p.m., an hour later than normal.
Next week the girls travel down the Methow to Brewster for a match with the Bears on Tuesday (Oct. 18), followed on Thursday (Oct. 20) with their final home match of 2022, Senior Night at Liberty Bell.