When the Central Valley girls cross country team wants to go hang out togethere, Sarah White is guaranteed to be part of the plan.
After all, the junior is the only member of the Lady Bears varsity with a driver’s license. Three teammates are sophomores, three more are freshmen.
“This was definitely a surprise,” White said. “My freshman and sophomore years we always had juniors and seniors on the varsity. It feels funny to me to be the oldest one on the team. I still feel like a sophomore.
“I thought that some of our seniors would be part of our varsity, but the freshmen and sophomores have run so well that they’ve taken over.”
Taken over and helped the Bears win the Class 4A district championship and head to state as a strong favorite to place today in Pasco.
The top seven runners Central Valley will send to the starting line today for the State Class 4A championship race on the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco are eye-poppingly young.
Sophomore Briegan Bester turned in a fifth-place finish to lead the Bears last week, running the 5K Wandermere course in 19 minutes, 44 seconds. White was the second CV runner to cross, nine seconds after Bester; freshman Kearan Nelson was three seconds behind White in 10th place overall. Sophomores Kayla Boyer and Brielle Crump were eight seconds apart, freshman Olivia Baddeley finished 19th overall and freshman Ashley Beard was 27th.
In recent weeks and on different courses, the order of finish has shifted somewhat. White, more often than not, was the first CV runner to cross during the regular season. In the final home meet of the regular season, Boyer and Nelson both finished ahead of White, and the trio finished within five seconds of each other.
Meanwhile, Sidney Hogberg won the freshman meet two weeks ago for the Lady Bears with Kelli England right on her heels in fourth place.
That should put Central Valley in solid shape for years to come, and it means each runner will have competition for their varsity spot for the foreseeable future.
While the order occasionally gets shuffled, the pack finish – which the Bears specialize in – is the norm.
“We concentrate on running with each other,” White said. “That’s what we do every day in practice. We run together. I pick out Kearan and try to run with her for the most part. That’s what we’ve concentrated on doing this week and I think that’s what we’re going to do at state.”
White is the only runner to have any state experience, and she did not run at state as a freshman, the last time the Bears qualified.
That lack of experience has been turned into an advantage. If you’ve never been in a state meet, it’s difficult to get psyched out by the prospect.
“I really don’t know what to expect from other teams (in the state meet),” White said. “I don’t know what times schools like Bellarmine Prep run so I have no idea who to mark. I just know my teammates and what we can do. I think we’ll all go out and run well and see what happens.”
In a nutshell, she said, the team will do what it’s been doing since the start of the summer.
“Last year we didn’t know anything about what the incoming freshman class would be like,” White said. “We’d ask each other about it, but I don’t think any of us expected they would come in and run so well this year.
“It’s actually kind of funny. When I was a freshman, the juniors and seniors really didn’t like the freshmen that much.”
As the summer wore on, the Bears put their respective ages aside and came together as a team.
“We really do love each other and run for each other,” White said. “That’s what you have to do as a team.”