Liberty Bell High School runners were prevalent at the front of the field all day long at the Wenatchee Cross Country Invitational on Saturday (Sept. 16) at Walla Walla Point City Park in the Apple Capital.
The race day schedule was packed with runners in the sixth grade all the way up through high school varsity, and featured schools in all five Washington classes from 1B through 4A. In all, 41 high schools and 16 middle schools represented at the meet with the race schedule beginning at 9:30 a.m.; 1,173 runners were recorded crossing the finish line during the day.
Running in the JV race, Liberty Bell’s Kyler Mitchell broke out to the front on the start and was near the lead for much of the 5-kilometer course until some muscle soreness issues took over midway and he began to fall back. He battled through, though, placing in the top half of the field.
Mountain Lions Dexter Delaney and Will Halpin served notice on the “B” schools with brilliant early season efforts. Both went to the front of the field quickly and finished strong, Delaney taking 2nd place at 16:00 and Halpin (16:16) just a few steps back in 5th. Aksel Thomson (17:34) placed 30th in the 179-runner field. George Chavez-Hernandez (127th) ran his first varsity 5K race in 20:17, Tristan Hover ran a 20:38 (140th) and Brodi Barber (20:55; 148th), who was in his first ever 5K race, looked strong throughout.
The Liberty Bell boys were 12th in the team standings and were 3rd among the B and 1A class schools. Hayden Roberts, a senior from Ephrata, ran an impressively strong race, touring the 5K course in 15:41, about 20 seconds ahead of Delaney. Lakeside (5th) and Cascade-Leavenworth (9th), both 1A schools, were ahead of the Mountain Lions. “B” schools Tri-Cities Prep and Brewster were 20th and 22nd, respectively.
On the girls’ side, Liberty Bell senior Leki Albright led a six-runner brigade of Mountain Lions around the course, placing 15th (20:34) overall in the 141-runner field. The girls took 13th spot in team standings as the only 1B-2B school to field a full team.
Senior Sandra Hernandez and junior Samra Newton teamed up to run as a mini-pack, Hernandez edging out her teammate at the finish by .4 second, the two placing 74th and 75th overall. Freshmen Alida Burt and Ingrid Venable also paired up and crossed the line almost together, Burt in 102nd and Venable 1.2 seconds behind in 103rd. Another Liberty Bell frosh, Yasmin Moore, was battling a stomach ailment on the course, but toughed it out to complete the 5K circuit.
Youngsters do well
The sixth-graders opened the event with a 9:30 a.m. start and looked like “gang green” at the front of the field. The top 10 finishers included six Mountain Lions, Hudson Brandenburg nosing out teammate Thorsen Yahraes at the finish line by a half second. Yahraes held a lead as he made the final turn and headed for the finish line, but a furious charge by Brandenburg up the final 50-meter slope was just enough to get Yahraes at the line. Preston Irvine took 4th place, Liam Gutzler was 5th, Finnbarr Humling crossed in 7th and Eldon Smith was 5 seconds back in 8th place. Elliot Venable crossed in 19th place to complete the seven-racer team.
Only two girls ran in the sixth-grade race for Liberty Bell, but they made the best of it. Lena DeCuir took home the 1st-place ribbon, actually running ahead of the boys for a significant portion of the 1.55-mile event. Her time of 10:16 would have put her in 5th place in that boys’ race and was 8 seconds ahead of 2nd-place Lila Hamon of Pioneer (Wenatchee).
More Mountain Lion futures were near the top of the seventh- and eighth-grade races. Crispin Anderson (10:43) placed 5th in the boys’ seventh-grade race while Tova Slostad (11:58) and Sutherland Stokes (12:02) finished 6th and 7th, respectively, in the girls’ seventh-grade race. Zoe Plemel posted a respectable 14th-place finish in the 33-racer field.
The eighth-grade girls’ race was another impressive team effort for the junior Lions, with seven runners in the top 15. Sammy DeSalvo took top honors with a 10:17, clearly outrunning 2nd-place Reagan Andrews of Housel by 40 seconds. Posey Hannigan, Anja Merkens and Nina Halpin provided an impressive three-runner pack, placing 5th, 6th and 7th, respectively over a 4-second spread. Madison Williams took 11th place, Maren Sands was 13th and Elsa Gutzler 15th to complete a full scoring team total of 23 and the team title for the girls.
The eighth-grade boys scored a 2nd-place team score of 56 behind Pioneer’s 35 points. Liberty Bell runners Soren DeCuir was 2nd and River Ferguson 4th. Luke Gatlin finished 18th, Landon Schmekel 22nd and Cassius Johnson 25th to complete the scoring team.
In the crowd of parents cheering on their son, sixth-grade winner Hudson, were former Mountain Lion runners Haley and Nick Brandenburg, who ran for Liberty Bell in the early 2000s. Mom was a 2001 and ’02 state participant, placing 11th in Pasco her senior year … The 90-plus temperature provided a reasonable excuse to go for a post-race swim, which we understand junior high coach Liam Daily did, somewhat involuntarily at the hands of his athletes. Not sure how many it took to accomplish the task, but imagine the event resembled a scene from Gulliver’s encounter with the Lilliputians … The Mountain Lions run both senior and junior high teams at the Okanogan Valley Golf Course this Wednesday (Sept. 20) and are taking the upcoming weekend off. On Sept. 30 the high school team heads for Marysville and the Nike Twilight. Liberty Bell’s home meet will be the following Saturday, Oct. 7.
Mountain Lions outlast Warriors, 64-34
Liberty Bell played the Almira-Coulee-Hartline Warriors mostly straight up in the first half of last Saturday evening’s 1B 8-man football matchup, taking a 28-20 lead into the halftime break, then clamping down the defense to pull away to a 64-34 victory. The win pushes the LBH record to 3-0.
The Mountain Lions shut out the Warriors in the first quarter 14-0. ACH gained a touchdown advantage in the second period, closing the Mountain Lion lead to 28-20 by halftime.
The second half opened with a Warrior on-side kick-off attempt that bounced up into the hands of Liberty Bell speedster Remington Paz at the Mountain Lion 40-yard line. Paz took the ball in stride, shed one tackler and was off to the races around the left flank of the Warrior defense, galloping to a 60-yard touchdown return to make the score 34-20.
The Mountain Lions struck again with 8:40 remaining in the third quarter on a 49-yard run, again by Remington Paz, to up the score to 40-20 and make the end result all but a foregone conclusion.
The Warriors and Mountain Lions traded a pair of scores to close out the third at 48-34. Liberty Bell added two more touchdowns on a 1-yard run by Remington Paz and a 14-yard scamper by Bodie Thomson for his first career touchdown to close out the scoring.
It was another high-percentage passing day for junior quarterback Lucien Paz, who hit receivers on 13 of his 18 attempts for 239 yards and two touchdowns. Remington Paz led the receiving corps with seven catches and 140 yards, getting into the end zone twice. Remington also led the rushing attack with 148 yards on the ground and added three more touchdowns for a total of six, including the kickoff return.
Freshman Greyden Paz led the defense with seven tackles from his safety position and also had a first-quarter interception return to set up the Mountain Lions’ first touchdown. Alex Ramsay-George added six tackles with two assists and two tackles for loss behind the line of scrimmage.
Greyden, the youngest of the Paz brothers, had a late-game tackle for loss that looked like an apparent 2-point safety. The ball was marked down at the 1-yard line, however, and play resumed from there as the clock ran out on the home team.
“We did exactly what we wanted to do” said Liberty Bell head coach Jeff Lidey. “It was our game plan to start 16 different players and we stuck to that. We wanted to get as many kids some playing time tonight as we could.”
That ethic bore itself out in the final statistics where 15 different players had at least one tackle defensively. On offense, five different players caught passes and there were five who advanced the ball via the ground game.
“Our parents have been so supportive, we wanted to make sure everybody got a shot at making plays and I think we accomplished that tonight,” the coach said.
As for the second half, “We made a couple of adjustments to the defense and that seemed to make a bit of a difference,” Lidey said.
“I was also pleased with the sportsmanship shown between both teams. The kids were helping each other up. It’s what we like to see,” he added.
That sportsmanship extended to the coaching staff at ACH, according to Lidey. Late in the first half it appeared that quarterback Lucien Paz had taken a shot to one of his legs and came up a bit gimpy. “Their coach came over at halftime to check in with Lucien,” said Lidey. “He tapped him on the helmet, told him he was playing great, and then headed back to the other side of the field. That just doesn’t happen very often.”
The Mountain Lions now have a two-week break in the schedule. Activities Director Michael Wilbur is still trying to fill two holes in the schedule on Sept. 30 or Oct. 13. They next travel to Walla Walla for a date at DeSales High School on Oct. 6. That game is slated to be live streamed via NFHS.
Volleyball nets first win
The Mountain Lion volleyball program split last week’s matches, a 3-0 home loss to Omak and their first win of the season, a 3-1 decision over the Oroville Hornets on the road last Thursday. The Liberty Bell record moved to 1-2 overall and 1-1 on the league season.
Tuesday night (Sept. 19) the Mountain Lion hosted state 2B No. 1-ranked Manson. There will be a full breakdown of that match, and this weekend’s trip to the Quincy Invitational Tournament, in next week’s edition.
• Liberty Bell dropped a three-game set at Omak on Wednesday (Sept. 13). The Pioneers proved too much for the young Mountain Lion squad, taking the match with set scores of 19-25, 16-25 and 16-25. Omak, from the Caribou trail League of Washington’s 1A class of schools, had the advantage of height and experience over the visitors, but there were some bright spots in this early-season match. Senior Bailey Thomson served 8 for 9 with two kills and one block. Sophomore Layla Mortland continued her upward learning curve with a 50% hitting efficiency and adding some defense along the front line with three kills and one kill block.
Mortland’s improvement was noted by coach Beth Blank: “Layla is learning her position as a middle blocker, a very complicated position right behind the setter in difficulty. As a young player, she played smart against a strong hitting and blocking team.”
Blank was upbeat after the match. “The match was closer than the scores indicate,” she said. “Omak was a tough 1A opponent and we really kept our energy and confidence up for the whole match against a tall and hard-hitting team.”
• The Mountain Lions turned some of that around and picked up their first win of the 2023 season with a 3-1 match over the Oroville Hornets. Liberty bell took the first set 25-14, dropped the second 22-25, then rolled through the final two sets 25-10 and 25-9.
Helaina Remsberg led the Mountain Lions with a perfect 25 for 25 serving and Kara McMillan was also perfect from the service line, placing all 19 of her offerings in play. Six of those serves were unreturnable aces and she augmented her back row play with 12 kills at the net.
Skylar McArthur added to the Mountain Lions service productivity with a 6-for-6 the night and one ace. She added a couple of kills to her totals.
Blank was impressed by her team’s production in service. “Our serving was lights out with the team serving over 95% for the match and four perfect servers,” she said.
“I’ll probably jinx her, but Kara hasn’t missed a serve all season,” said Blank. “As she gets more confident, she’s also starting to stack up the aces. She’s doing all this while learning the middle blocker position which she’s never played before.”
As for Oroville, the coach said, “They had a surprise for us in starting a 6-feet, 1-inch player who looks like she’s played some pretty competitive ball somewhere else … She got her share of blocks but our hitters learned to work around her and weren’t intimidated.”
Soccer drops season opener
The Omak Pioneers spoiled Liberty Bell’s season debut with a 5-1 defeat of the Mountain Lions at Omak last Wednesday night. Omak hit for two first half goals before sophomore Lilly Belcher controlled a loose ball in front of the Omak goal, launching it past the Omak goalkeeper early in the second half.
“We got it to 2-1 and thought we were in it at that point,” said assistant coach Andrew Nelson. Omak responded with three goals later in the second half to salt the match away, sending the Mountain Lions home with a non-league loss to start the season.
“We had a limited bench and we’re still trying to figure out who is going to play where,” Nelson continued. With only 15 girls on the roster, many of them freshmen and sophomores, the girls lack for experience, but don’t lack for energy or enthusiasm.
The girls faced Pateros in their home opener at Mountain Lion Stadium on Tuesday. The Nannies and Mountain Lions split last year’s two-game series.