At Mead High School, Nov. 6 will forever be remembered as the day the Panthers brought home the State 3A girls cross country team title for the first time in 33 years.
For those athletes, it’s the greatest feeling in the world to hoist the golden runner and stand atop the state podium.
Senior Courtney Osborn, part of this year’s state champion team, knows that feeling. It takes on a deeper meaning because she can share that distinction with family.
In 1988, the Mead girls defeated Eisenhower for the State AAA title 70-72, led by top-20 performances from Kami Hume, who placed seventh individually running 17 minutes, 51 seconds for the 3-mile course, and Katie Rein (15th, 18:16).
Trailing just behind Mead’s two leaders was Susan Bonogofski – Courtney Osborn’s mother.
“That was my fondest memory of high school,” Susan Osborn said. “It took a while to get those results, so it was nerve-racking because we knew it was going to be super tight. Once they announced it, it was pretty amazing to hear we won.”
Susan Osborn began running at a young age, introduced to the sport by her parents. Her dad was a collegiate runner for Washington State; her mom was actively involved for the health benefits.
“I started running with my mom in kindergarten and fell in love with it right away,” she said. “From there, I was able to get into it competitively.”
Her love for running grew more when she joined the Mead cross country team. The team culture became an important part of her high school experience.
“I really appreciated the closeness of our team,” she said. “I think cross country teams are always close, but nothing matched that team. We did everything together and we were there for each other for everything – not just in running and sports, but also in school and life in general.”
After the ’88 season, Osborn competed in two more state cross country meets, finishing top 30 in both races. She competed in college at Montana for two years, then transferred to Eastern Washington – where she was named to the Big Sky Conference All-Academic track team.
Susan Osborn always had passion for running, and once she became a mother, she wanted to share that with her family. But it took some time to get her children hooked – especially Courtney.
“She didn’t fall in love with running at first when she was younger,” Susan Osborn said. “In middle school she did club soccer.”
While growing up, Courtney had two friends that also had connections to running through their parents – twins Alexis and Alanna Parker. Their dad, Kevin Parker, went to school with Courtney’s mom and ran cross country for the Mead boys team.
“I was best friends with the Parker twins since I was really little and they always ran,” Courtney Osborn said. “I ran cross country with them in middle school just to stay in shape, but I tried it in high school and thought the experience was amazing. That’s when I really got into running.”
She spent two seasons on junior varsity, where she had a 5,000-meter personal-best time of 23:19.2. Only a few spots out from a varsity role as a sophomore, she had her sights on a top-seven spot for her junior season.
COVID-19, however, had different plans for everyone. The worldwide pandemic forced all high school athletes in Washington to pause during fall 2020. Osborn’s chance at varsity had to wait.
But running doesn’t take an off-season. She knew she needed to do a bit more during the fall to prove she could run varsity when the abbreviated spring cross country season rolled around in March. To do so, Osborn started putting in the work – with her mom’s help.
“With the COVID year, me and my mom trained for a half marathon in November and that kind of helped me with my base training,” she said.
The results of off-season running started to show and Osborn got her varsity spot in the spring.
“Once I started the cross country season in the spring, I seemed to be getting better,” she said. “The competitiveness of our team was able to push me along to improve over the last two years.”
Osborn dropped her 5K time down by over 2wo minutes to 21:12.8, and the Panthers won the GSL 4A/3A team title and finished third in the virtual State 3A meet.
Osborn, and her Panthers teammates, couldn’t wait to get started again the next school year.
“Last spring, we figured out we were good,” Osborn said. “This past summer, we all trained as hard as we could by putting in the time and effort. Once the season started, the spots for varsity were really tight and you could see the competitiveness of our team. You were constantly wanting to keep your spot, which really pushed us.”
Mead repeated as GSL champions, won the District 8 3A title, then earned a berth to the state meet for the first time in six years.
Many within the program set out to end the 33-year drought. The camaraderie and talent within this year’s group reminded Susan Osborn of her own team in ’88.
“I kept telling her that her team reminded me of my team because of how close they were with each other,” she said. “They all wanted each other to perform at their best and it was a family that all wanted to win state as badly as we did.”
That talent and camaraderie brought a title back to Mead. The hard work Courtney Osborn and the Panthers put in was a story in itself, but the family aspect pushed it to another level.
“Looking back at freshman year, I would have never seen myself there,” Courtney Osborn said. “Maybe I would have seen myself on the varsity team, but I would have never saw myself on top of a podium for first place in state. That was amazing.”
Mead defeated Central Kitsap for the state title 114-155, making a running mom proud her daughter could live the same dream she did 33 years ago.
“All along with running, I wanted it to be her desire,” Susan Osborn said. “I think that’s why it’s more special, because she got that little itch in her to go for it and make varsity. To see her make goals for herself and the team all working together toward achieving those goals makes me super proud of them.
“Winning state was a goal they wanted and to see them achieve it was pretty exciting.”
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