The Tahoma Bears believe they’ll be a force to be reckoned with when it’s time for the state boys cross country meet next month.
Last Saturday at the Sunfair Invitational in Yakima, they showed why.
With four of their seven runners placing among the top three in their respective flights — including a victory by senior Phil Lussier in his race against other No. 3 runners — the Bears compiled an impressive total of 39 points to finished second, a mere three points behind Gig Harbor.
Just like the Pasco Invitational during the track season in the spring, the Sunfair cross country gathering on the challenging 3.0-mile course at Franklin Park in Yakima is regarded by many as a sneak-preview of state, with many of the top teams and runners in attendance.
Tahoma was ranked ninth in last week’s state coaches poll.
Among the teams the Bears beat at Sunfair were No. 6 Southridge (fourth place at Sunfair), No. 2 Eisenhower (seventh) and No. 5 Kamiakin (11th). Tahoma also finished ahead of Sehome, the state’s top-ranked Class 2A team. The Mariners were fourth on Saturday.
Jackson, the top-ranked 4A team, and No. 3 Mead were not at Sunfair.
Lussier finished his run in 16 minutes, 30.6 seconds, a 14-second margin ahead of second-place Max Hardy from Boise High School.
Tahoma had a pair of runners-up: senior Chris Marx in the race for No. 5 runners (17:04.2), and junior Casey Campbell in the race for No. 2s (16:16.2). Senior Jimmy Creek was third in the race for No. 4s (16:51.1).
Bears senior Kelton Sears, racing against the other No. 1 runners, finished sixth in 15:48.2. That race was won by Andrew Gonzales of Kennewick’s Southridge High in 15:23.9.
The Tahoma girls finished fifth with 61 points. The Bears had three finishers among the top 5. Junior Blair Slater was fourth in the race for No. 7s (20:52.5); freshman Julianna Mock was fourth in the race for No. 4s (20:16.9); and senior Paige Pliler took fifth in the race for No. 6s (20:59.5).
Hannah Mittelstaedt, a Tahoma junior, ran 11th against the other No. 1 runners, finishing her day’s work in 19:18.2. Mead sophomore Baylee Mires broke the 18-minute mark in winning that race. She crossed the line in 17:59.5.
Gig Harbor cruised to the team title with 20 points. The state-power Tides had one winner, one second and three thirds from their seven runners.
Tahoma, which was not among the top 10 in last week’s 4A girls poll, but did receive votes, out-ran fifth-ranked Mead (seventh place at Sunfair), fourth-ranked Davis (11th place) and 10th-ranked Olympia (12th place). Aside from Gig Harbor, the only ranked 4A team to beat the Bears was No. 2 Eastlake, which took third on Saturday with 47 points.