Imagine yourself as a ninth-grader entering high school – you’re meeting people, making new friends, and starting a new chapter of your life.
Then the following year, another school opens in your district, and you have to make a choice whether you want to stay at your current school or transfer.
Sounds a bit overwhelming, right?
For most of us, it would be a difficult decision, but for Ridgeline’s newest cross country star, Ruby Bryntesen, she didn’t hesitate to take a chance on her latest opportunity.
Bryntesen was the top ninth-grade runner in the Greater Spokane League for Central Valley during the COVID cross country season. She ran a 5,000-meter personal-best time of 19 minutes, 11.5 seconds and finished 11th overall in the virtual State 4A meet.
Her running future with the Bears was bright.
Bryntesen, however, had a choice. She could either continue her up-and-coming legacy at CV or start a new one at Ridgeline.
She went with her gut.
“I was going to CV up until halfway through August, and I just had a change of heart,” Bryntesen said. “I figured, ‘Why not try it?’ and I am very happy with the decision I made. I’ve liked the change as it’s been really fun and something new for me.”
The transition wasn’t easy. It took Bryntesen and some other CV transfers a while to get accustomed to donning the green and gray rather than the blue and white, especially when Ridgeline toed the line at the first race of the year against CV at the Highlander Invite.
“At first it was a bit hard,” Bryntesen said. “Me and some of the girls were pretty attached to CV, so it was scary to think about going to a new school, but I feel like our team bonding here has been really good. We’ve all become super close, and we just try to keep it fun around here.”
Bryntesen and her teammates weren’t the only ones adjusting with the switch. Molly Barnhart, who coached triple and long jump in track and field at CV for six years, accepted her first teaching job at Ridgeline, then signed on to be the school’s first girls cross country coach.
“It’s been hectic, but the journey so far has been awesome,” Barnhart said.
“I’m so thankful that I have the group of kids that are involved in this sport, and I am fortunate enough that the team this year is great.”
Being a new coach in a sport that requires the attention of all athletes participating rather than solely focusing on a certain event, Barnhart has been learning the ins and outs from other coaching mentors while her own athletes have helped her through practices and racing.
“I learn from a lot of them and it’s awesome to see what they can do,” Barnhart said. “There are some days when I watch them run as a coach and I wouldn’t know how I’d feel about it, but the kids are so positive all the time.”
GSL dual races finished up on Oct. 20, and Ridgeline ended its inaugural regular season with six wins , including an early win over three-time defending State 3A champion North Central in its first GSL meet of the year.
“We’re having a lot of success as far as team bonding,” Barnhart said. “In order to build a program, you have to build a strong culture, and that’s been the emphasis this year. Having everybody understand a whole cross country team includes every single runner as everyone is a part of the team.”
For a first-year program that is mostly made up of ninth-graders and sophomores, Ridgeline has certainly gone above its expectations. Heading into the District 8 3A championship meet Saturday at Wandermere Golf Course, the Falcons sit in fifth place in the hypothetical meet on Athletic.net. Three teams, along with 21 individuals, will automatically qualify for this year’s state meet in Pasco on Nov. 6.
“It would be absolutely amazing if the whole team can make it,” Barnhart said. “It would be a great experience and opportunity for some of our underclassmen, and then for Ridgeline as a school it would be great.”
It may be an outside chance for Ridgeline to make it as a team, but the Falcons could send individuals to state. They have two runners ranked within the top 21, including Bryntesen – who sits in eighth .
“I don’t want to put any pressure on myself and see what I could do,” Bryntesen said. “The goal is to try my best and I’m going to try to stay up with a couple girls that I’ve been racing against this season, and hopefully, if can do that, I can pull through and make it.”
Bryntesen hopes to become Ridgeline’s first student-athlete to qualify for a state event.
She believes the accomplishment would inspire more girls to come out to cross country in the years to come.
“I just feel like it will start a future of where people want to do cross country,” Bryntesen said. “Hopefully, each year other girls will think this is cool and fun and that we get more and more people to come out to make it a huge part of our school.”
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