Legendary West Valley cross country coach Jim McLachlan has been going through his files and cleaning out some of the memories he accumulated over 40 years coaching Eagles runners.
He frequently puts the call out on his Facebook page, looking for past runners so he can pass along a photo he’s come across.
So when he posted a couple gems over the weekend, it took a few minutes to sink in.
The first photo featured a couple fathers and daughters. The West Valley girls cross country team had just qualified for this weekend’s state Class 2A championship meet Saturday in Pasco and freshman Annika Esvelt and sophomore Sydney Stone were happily posed with their fathers, Mark Esvelt and Bob Stone.
If you’ve ever perused the board outside the West Valley gym that lists school track and field record holders, Mark Esvelt’s name is familiar. He still holds the school record in the mile.
“It’s really cool for me to know that I’m following in his footsteps and to walk past the leader board and still see his name up there,” Annika Esvelt said.
Bob Stone came along a little later for his West Valley cross country career.
“Yeah, I only ran one year, the 1989 season,” Stone laughs. “I ran my senior year when I got through being the drum major with the marching band. But I loved it.”
The second photo featured freshman Cody Skay and his father, Tracy – a member of West Valley’s state-qualifying teams in 1982 and 1983 along with Esvelt. Both teams finished second to Edmonds.
“Tracy has been like having an extra assistant coach,” WV coach Ty Brown said. “His daughter, McCall, ran for us, and he was there to help out any way he could. And he’s doing that now with his son, Cody.”
Cody said he’s heard all the stories his dad tells about running for McLachlan.
“It’s been great to follow my dad, but to be honest my sister has been a bigger influence on my running here,” Cody Skay said. “I remember the first time we went out to do my first fun run, and she just beat me. She held that over my head forever.”
Skay finished fourth at last weekend’s regional meet in Yakima to qualify for state. Teammate Jacob Nicholson was the regional champion.
“The pressure is off,” the junior. “I beat my dad’s best time, so it’s all good.”
Tracy Skay ran 16 minutes, 25 seconds as a personal best time at state, and his son plans to eclipse that mark Saturday.
That the West Valley girls qualified to run at state is an accomplishment, especially when you consider that the team hasn’t had a full varsity running for several seasons.
Sydney Stone ran at state last year as the lone West Valley runner to qualify.
“It was pretty strange to go there without having any teammates,” she said. “I just kind of tagged along with the guys.”
That’s been the case since Stone arrived at West Valley.
“She started running when I was taking her younger brother out to run to help him with his soccer,” Bob Stone said. “She asked if she could tag along.
“So I was working with her brother, trying to get him to use his arms and working on his stride, and I looked up and there Sydney was, about 20 yards ahead of us running so smooth. She was like a gazelle.”
Before she officially enrolled as a freshman, Stone was already showing up to do the hard work.
“There were guys who were afraid to not show up for an optional morning run because they were afraid they’d be shown up by this freshman girl,” her father said.
Tracy Skay was the one to predict Sydney Stone’s run at state, her father said.
“I didn’t think she’d make it looking at the times,” he said. “He said, ‘Nope, she’s going to qualify and run at state.’ I said ‘Why do you say that?’ and he said ‘Because she works her tail off and she’s put in the work. She’s going to get there.”
The arrival of three talented freshmen runners made all the difference for the Eagles: Emma Garza, Mikayla Davis and Esvelt. They joined sophomores Stone and Sarah Adamson and senior Hannah Stockman.
“That senior has worked her tail off for four years,” Bob Stone said. “She broke down in tears when she saw that she was going to get to run at state for her last race. It was worth it all to see her get that chance.”
“I’m really kind of sad that it’s all coming to an end after this weekend,” Annika Esvelt said. “This whole experience has been so great. This team really feels like family. We’re all so close and we support each other so much. I love being with them.
“You work so much harder here than you do in middle school cross country, but the rewards are so much bigger.”
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