The path toward the 2A state meet didn't get any clearer for Sequim runners after last week's Olympic League championships.
Both boys and girls teams crossed the damp, slick finish line in fourth place on Oct. 22 at The Cedars at Dungeness golf course, signaling there are few sure things heading into next weekend's West Central District meet.
Sequim's Alli Cutting, the defending 2A cross country champion, finished fourth in the 5,000-meter race in 18 minutes and 55 seconds, about 25 seconds behind 2007 state champion and rival Ruby Roberts of Kingston.
Running her first race of the season after a months-long injury was Wolf Audrey Lichten, who crossed the finish line in 19:48, good for 10th overall.
Teammate Taylor Roads was 13th overall with a 20:44 finish.
And while Sequim's girls have a tough bid to capture one of two district berths to state - Kingston, this year's Olympic League champ, is ranked No. 3 in the state - Sequim's boys figured to have a legitimate shot at their fourth consecutive state berth (SHS's girls have qualified seven consecutive years since 2002).
But after Kingston took second place at league with 79 team points, 15 points ahead of Sequim, Sequim coach Harold Huff thinks it will be a dogfight between his crew, Kingston and KingCo middleweight Interlake for just two state berths.
"We just have to fill in the gaps and make up some time," Huff said. "We've got a week and a half to figure things out."
Alex Jenkins led Sequim's boys with a 10th-place finish, crossing the line in 16:45. Adrian Clifford was 16th at 16:55, followed by Colby Robb (19th, 17:16), Drake Apablasa (23rd, 17:31) and Joel Christopher (25th, 17:34).
"We look at all of our (regular) races as practice," Robb said. "Once it's league, it's business. I think I ran a decent race."
Cutting, seeking to knock off Roberts on her home course, went out with leaders Chandra Romney of Port Angeles, Annelise Weinmann of North Kitsap and Kingston's Roberts sisters, Ruby and Marina. Her race plan was to stay a little back of the pack and reel in runners one by one. But a quick-paced first mile - Cutting says Ruby Roberts clocked a 5:50 and she had a 6:03 split - may have thrown her off.
"Not my best (race), definitely," Cutting said. "It just didn't feel good. I'm determined to do better next week."
Lichten, nursing an injury she suffered in track months previous, stayed with the second pack to give Sequim a boost. She was sixth in last year's league meet.
"I feel fine; I just didn't have any endurance," Lichten said, moments after crossing the finish line.
Despite a slip on the course, Roads finished with a solid time and improved her 2008 league meet time by 26 seconds over a longer distance (a 5K to last season's three-mile course).
On the boys' side, North Kitsap's Tabor Reedy (15:58) passed Port Townsend star Bereket Piatt in the home stretch for the individual win. North Kitsap posted an easy, 34-point win ahead of second-place Kingston. With two of the top three runners in the race, Port Townsend finished with 92 team points, edging Sequim (93) for third place. Port Angeles was fifth.
Kingston's girls scored 39 team points to edge rival North Kitsap - the state's No. 4-ranked team in the 3A class - by a single point. Port Angeles (96) was third, followed by Sequim (107).
Sequim's Brogan Cays was fifth in the boys' junior varsity race.
The West Central District meet pits four Olympic 2A teams with four from the Nisqually League, plus KingCo 2A school Interlake, together at American Lake Golf Course in Tacoma on Oct. 31.
Robb said he hopes to get his team one of the two team berths to the class 2A state meet.
"Interlake and Kingston, I think we'll be able to take them both," he said.
Jenkins said each of the Wolves needs to find a way to outrun them.
"We just need to split
(Kingston's runners)," Jenkins said. "I can't keep up with (top Buc Nick) Schippers but the rest of my team is deep."
On the girls' side, Kingston looks like the early favorite for a team title while Fife and Interlake figure to vie with Sequim for state berths.
Ruby Roberts, the Buccaneer senior, looks to defend her 2008 individual district title while Cutting looks to take districts for the first time.
In 2008, Roberts edged Cutting by 22 seconds at the league meet and by 10 seconds at districts but saw the Sequim star blaze to a nine-second win at state.
Huff said the state course, hosted once again by Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, is perfect for Cutting, a course filled with bumps and sharp turns.
"(Alli) is going to have to pick it up a notch," Huff said.
Reach Michael Dashiell at firstname.lastname@example.org.