Liberty wins first district title to qualify for state

November 5, 2010

By Bob Taylor

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Liberty girls’ cross country team members run with other 3A Sea-King District teams Oct. 28 at Lower Woodland Park. By Michael Smith

A promise is a promise. Liberty High School cross country coach Michael Smith kept his Oct. 28 after the Patriots’ girls team captured the 3A Sea-King District title.

Smith, with some help from the Liberty team, did a dive into Green Lake. Scoring wise, the dive wasn’t a perfect 10 because he was pushed into the lake. But he kept his promise.

The week before Smith had made a similar promise to the team when it competed in the 3A KingCo Conference meet.

“I told them if they won the team title I would jump into Lake Sammamish,” Smith said.

As things turned out, Liberty finished second and Smith didn’t have to take a dip into the cold lake.

But last week, before the district meet at Seattle’s Lower Woodland Park, the Patriots, remembering Smith’s promise the week before, asked him what it would take to plunge into Green Lake.

“They asked me if I would jump in if they qualified for state. I said they would have to do better than that. Then, they asked me if they won the district title, whether I would jump into the lake. I said I would,” Smith said.

He kept his word. The Patriots captured the district title for the first time, compiling 78 points to outdistance KingCo champion Mercer Island, which was second with 99 points.

How was the water?

“It was cold,” Smith said.

But it has been a hot season for the Patriots that has just gotten better and better for the Liberty girls. Earlier this season, the Patriots had their first perfect score ever in a meet. Then, the Patriots went unbeaten against other 3A KingCo teams in league meets.

Last week, the Liberty girls became the first cross country team from Liberty to ever qualify for the state meet.

This team has come a long way in three years.

“Three years ago, we had just four girls on varsity,” Smith said.

This year, the Patriots are headed to the state meet Nov. 6 in Pasco.

Liberty won the district title despite having no individual finishers among the top 13. Mercer Island, probably a favorite for the team title, had two runners, Lindsey Benster (seventh) and Mikayla Davis (10th) finish among the top 10 placers.

However, the key for Liberty was its ability to run as a pack. Aimee Christensen led the way for the Patriots, finishing 14th in a time of 20 minutes, 25.41 seconds. Right behind her was teammate Megan Chucka, 15th in 20:26.14. Isabel Ferguson, of Bainbridge, broke up the pack by taking 16th. However, Liberty’s Rachel Shaw, Allie Wood and Amy Broska went 17th, 18th and 19th respectively. Because of the pack, there was no way Mercer Island could overcome the Patriots. The Islanders’ next runners came in at 25th, 27th and 36th.

Liberty’s Michaela Chucka finished 29th and Megan Larson came in 31st.

“I told them to stay together, and charge the uphills and go crazy on the downhills,” Smith said. “I told them not to get caught up going out too fast. They just did a great job of staying together.”

He said he had a hunch his team might do well at district.

“We felt pretty good coming into it. If Mercer Island didn’t have a great day, I felt we had a chance. I felt we could beat the Metro teams,” Smith said.

With all of the top runners returning next year, the Patriots have a chance at repeating their district title.

“We’re hoping to start a tradition,” Smith said.

Liberty boys come in sixth

The Liberty boys team finished sixth and didn’t qualify for the state meet. However, two runners did qualify individually for state — Scott Turner and Tyler Westenbroek. Turner finished 20th and Westenbroek took 23rd.

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