The Woodinville High School boys cross-country team continues to find success at each competition this season, leaving them with a rank of first in the league.
Cross-country athletes run 5K races—oftentimes longer distances during practices—in all types of terrain, weather and conditions.
On Oct. 9, WHS’s top five boys on varsity qualified to run in the Nike Hole in the Wall Invitational in Marysville, Wash. The race required teams to average a 17-minute time on the 5K, Head Coach Jennifer Bolibol said. The team placed fifth with a score of 228.
“We competed against the best of the best,” Bolibol said. “To be fifth is pretty phenomenal.”
She added that the entire cross-country team, including boys and girls, competed against teams of all classifications from Washington, Idaho, Oregon and California.
Bolibol said the boys who competed in the elite race were senior Kya Villanueva (15:55.9), senior Tre Pepper (15:58.4), senior Gabriel Kary (16:21.3), junior Oliver Campbell (16:31.2) and sophomore Caden Bieler (16:44.1).
The top five varsity girls include senior Chloe Olson, junior Piper Welch, senior Nell O’hara, junior Kaitlyn Farrow and sophomore Kiera Koole, she noted.
At the invite, the junior varsity girls team placed third. Bolibol added that 19 athletes reached personal records at the invite as well.
Because of COVID-19 restrictions over the past 16 months, she said, the last time current WHS seniors competed in a regular season was their freshman year in high school.
Bolibol said the team took advantage of the shortened season held in February by training without any significant breaks through the start of the fall season.
“We have been able to reap the benefit of putting in some good training without gaps, unlike a normal year,” she said. “If we’re going to find a positive out of a bad situation, that would be the long training season.”
This year, she said, 65 student athletes for both the boys and girls team came out for the season. Typically, around 80 students join cross country, she added.
Bolibol said even though the team slightly dropped in numbers, the athletes continue to grow both mentally and physically.
“There's three training components that you're always training for: the physical, the mental and the heart,” she said. “I think you have to have all three of those to really be a successful performer, so I think with COVID that's brought some interesting challenges for the heart and the mental piece.”
Olson, a senior runner, is one example of perseverance. Bolibol said she joined the cross-country team as a freshman prior to the pandemic. She kept showing up and she kept pushing herself, she added. Now, Olson is the Falcon’s number 1 runner on girls varsity this season.
“She's a living model for the younger kids to show what hard work looks like,” Bolibol said.
Bolibol joined the Falcons as head coach about six years ago, she said. In high school, she ran for Bothell High School and continued to compete at Seattle Pacific University.
“The thing I love about cross country, and track and field too, is that it is available to all people of all abilities,” Bolibol said. “Some of the sports cost a lot of money and it phases out some people. But with running, all you need is a pair of shoes and some heart.”
Up next, the WHS cross-country team will race in the King County league championships to see which athletes qualify for districts. The meet is set for Saturday, Oct. 23, on a course at Lake Sammamish State Park.
“I think our boys team from the get-go has said, ‘we're going to state,’” Bolibol said. “That’s their biggest target and motivator. As a whole team, my goal is to have kids remember there’s a race within the race.”