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Raring To Repeat State Champion EV Girls Will Be Back Next Year With Same Cross Country Runners

East Valley’s girls cross country team didn’t have someone to win a state championship for, so they won it for themselves.

It wasn’t easy, the Knights slipping past South Whidby 92-96 for their second-straight AA state crown.

“Each was important for different reasons,” said Sally Wulf. “Last year we worked together to accomplish it for Brook (McLachlan, the team’s lone senior). This year was an individual thing. All had different reasons for being there.”

For Wulf, EV’s No. 7 runner, it was fitting reward for selflessness. She was one of three persons who raced for two team spots late in the year and graciously relinquished her position.

“Jen Mills beat me and I felt she was the one who deserved it,” she said.

Mills didn’t like putting the varsity berths on one race, saying she had mixed feelings about its outcome.

“As much as I wanted to be on the team, I wanted Sally on it,” she said. “When I beat her I felt bad.”

Wulf got another chance when Carmen Cook, last year’s No. 3 runner, was sidelined with stress fractures in both legs.

“It was hard for me,” said Cook. “But I’m happy because we won.”

The championship was also gratifying for Holly Weiler, the third person involved in the run-off. A year ago the EV junior was an alternate to state and didn’t compete.

“I just decided I wanted to be a part of it,” she said.

This year she not only made the team, but also was a major factor in district and state titles. Weiler’s times improved dramatically as EV’s number four scorer at both meets.

“I think the meet before district (which determined whether she would be on varsity) had more pressure,” she said. “I didn’t know I could go this far.”

Where it has gone for this group of juniors, sophomores and freshman Korinda Godwin is from upstart titlist to expected winner.

Rated No. 1 from season’s start, the team avoided potential pitfalls inherent with the ranking.

“There was a lot more pressure to repeat, it was like, ‘show us,”’ said Ann Marie Adams.

“Last year nobody cared about us. We were not even ranked for much of the season,” said Weiler. “This year they talked about us constantly.”

In several instances South Whidby runners finished in front of their EV counterparts. Knight Angie Simmers placed sixth for the second year in a deadheat behind South Whidby’s No. 1 runner.

“I thought I beat her,” said Simmers. “Except for the start I was satisfied with my race.”

South Whidby’s second, fourth and fifth scorers also finished ahead of EV’s respective scorers.

Knights Cara Smith and Ann Marie Adams decided the meet when they placed well ahead of South Whidby’s No. 3.

“I was sick the whole week and didn’t run at all,” said Smith, who improved from 20th last year to 15th this year. “I thought I was going to do bad but did really good. I was so loose I was not even tired when I finished.”

Adams had hoped for a top 12 finish. But she coughed up phlegm and choked on it, inhibiting her breathing. She settled for 18th.

Still, she was 10 places better than last year and 11 places higher than South Whidby’s third finisher. It was the difference in the outcome.

Four returnees improved their times an average of 22 seconds. Five of this year’s seven runners this year were faster than last year.

“The field was definitely stronger than last year,” said EV coach Nick Lazanis. “But this is a better team than last year. I’m proud of them.”

All of East Valley’s top nine runners return, including Carmen Cook, her sister Crystal, a first-year cross country runner, and freshman Godwin, EV’s fifth scorer who admitted to being “very nervous” in her first state race.

They’d like to win a third straight championship in their final year at the Class AA level.

“No one’s graduating and we will have two or three good freshmen who will make us work harder,” said Adams. “We’ll be that much better.”

, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Photo