The Liberty Bell High School girls won the District 5/6 combined cross country state qualifier in dominant fashion last Thursday (Oct. 26) near Yakima, scoring 19 points to Manson’s 56, Oroville’s 61 and Warden’s 85.
Mountain Lion senior Leki Albright closed out her regular season career with her third straight district championship, touring the 3-mile Apple Ridge course in 19:11, 22 seconds ahead of second-place Araceli Esquivel (Oroville). Goldendale freshman Emma Meagher placed third with Liberty Bell runners Sandra Hernandez (fourth), Samra Newton (fifth), Ingrid Venable (seventh) and Alida Burt (eighth) taking four of the next five spots to complete Liberty Bell’s scoring team. Nella Belcher, in just her second cross country race, came home in a respectable 16th and Yasmin Moore battled her way to 30th in the 42-runner field.
Manson will join the Mountain Lions at state this Saturday as the second-place team from the combined district.
The Mountain Lion boys followed the girls, hosting the district and league championships Saturday at Liberty Bell. As expected, the race boiled down to a duel between Okanogan and Liberty Bell. The Bulldogs’ pack running style won out by a mere seven points, 32-39. Both teams advance to the state championships this Saturday in Pasco, and will be joined by Brewster after their third-place finish in the points race.
Mountain Lion duo Dexter Delaney and Will Halpin took the first two places, respectively, Delaney breaking his course record set just a few weeks back at the Liberty Bell Invite. Delaney’s 15:40 over the 5-kilometer course was 12 seconds faster than his Oct. 8 win on the same course. Liberty Bell’s Aksel Thomson crossed the line in sixth place, holding off Okanogan’s Finn Beery in a final 100-meter sprint, by a mere four-tenths of a second.
Kyler Mitchell (18:35) was the fourth Liberty Bell runner across the line in 13th place, George Chavez-Hernandez (19:09) placed 20th and Tristan Hover (19:18) not far behind in 21st place ran together most of the race. Brodi Barber rounded out the Liberty Bell team, placing 26th at 19:34 in the 51-runner race.
Coach Erik Brooks was upbeat about moving along to the state meet, telling his team, “We aren’t that far out guys. Seven points is nothing when we get to state.” Indeed, The Mountain Lions closed the gap measurably from the last time they squared off with Okanogan. In finishing third on Oct. 8, the Mountain Lions were 18 points behind. “I think we can make that (seven points) up at state next week,” Brooks said. “We just need to move up a couple of spots in a couple of key positions and we should be good.”
Keeping the streaks alive
At the state championships, both the boys and girls will be looking to keep another set of streaks alive. The boys have been on the podium (top four team places) each of the past two years, placing fourth last year and winning the championship in 2021. The girls have been on the podium every year since 2016, when they won the state championship for the first time. Those last seven trips to state include three championships, two second places and last year’s fourth-place finish. Their only non-podium finish was in 2015 when they placed fifth.
Individually, the girls’ race could be an interesting affair as seven of the top 10 return. Last year’s winner, junior Josie McLaughlin of St. George’s, has been a little slower this year, but still can battle and should be close the front of the field. Allie Robertson, a sophomore from Spokane’s NW Christian, is at the top of the Athletic.net rankings for the 5K this year, freshman Ruby Henry of Olympia’s Pope John Paul II is second and Liberty Bell’s Albright is third. Last year’s runner up Madison Ingram has transferred from NW Christian-Lacey and leads a strong Rainier team.
The pre-race favorite is Pope John Paul II of the Olympia-Lacey area in the girls’ race. The Garfield-Palouse girls placed second last year, one point behind, and they are strong again this year.
Spokane’s Valley Christian would seem to be the cream of the crop in the boys’ race, on paper. Pope John Paul should challenge Valley Christian for the top spot, with Okanogan, Liberty Bell, Asotin and Garfield-Palouse battling for the third and fourth podium spots.
All eyes will be on that boys’ individual race as three seniors and Liberty Bell’s junior Delaney are all within 15 seconds on their 5K best times this year. Benjamin Morales of St. George’s has the top time at 15:38, Delaney’s 15:40 Saturday is second, Tri-Cities Prep Ciaran St. Hilaire is third at 15:54 and Jordan Stout of Adna came in at 15:55. St. Hilaire is the defending state champion and seven of last year’s top 10 return, including Liberty Bell senior Will Halpin. Aksel Thomson should also be strong for the Mountain Lions and has a shot at the top 20.
Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco is the site again this year. An excellent spectator course with great viewing locations, it has enough hills to keep runners’ attention. The girls’ 1B/2B race is set to start at 10 a.m. The 1B boys will go at 11:30 a.m. Live results will be posted at wiaa.com on their Cross Country Tournament Central link and there should be some activity on local social media including the Methow Valley School District and Liberty Bell Booster Club Facebook pages.