Brigette Takeuchi helps pace Liberty to top-10 finish at state
December 4, 2013
By Christina Corrales-Toy
It says something about the strength of a program when its athletes and coaches are disappointed, even after a weekend in which the team posted its best performance ever at the state competition.
That’s what it means to be a Liberty High School cross-country participant, where the expectations are high, but certainly attainable, Patriots coach Mike Smith said.
The Liberty girls cross-country team was determined to finish in the top four at the 2013 state competition in Pasco on Nov. 9. The Patriots had a good chance, too, given they were ranked third in the state coming into the meet.
As a group, the girls ran faster than last year, shaving about 20 seconds off of the 2012 squad’s team average. That team finished fifth at state, but the 2013 team, despite its improvement, finished sixth.
“They ran better than the year before by a whole bunch. It’s just that everybody else ran better, too,” Smith said.
The Patriots celebrated their first ever medalist, though, as freshman phenom Brigette Takeuchi took fourth overall with a time of 18 minutes, 31.79 seconds.
Only one other underclassman, freshman rival Sophie Cantine, of Lakeside, finished ahead of her. Cantine, from Sammamish, and Takeuchi competed against each other as middle school students, Smith said, so the two are very familiar with each other.
“She really wanted to compete with Sophie, so she’s kind of been beating herself up about it,” Smith said. “But I told her to enjoy it, you got a medal at state.”
The performance earned Takeuchi an invite to the 2013 Nike BorderClash in Beaverton, Ore. The race, at Nike headquarters, pits the top runners from Washington and Oregon against each other.
Two other Liberty girls finished the Pasco course in less than 20 minutes. Sophomore Carlyn Schmidgall crossed the finish line in 19:26.18, and Takeuchi’s twin sister Kelsey finished in 19:34.43
Senior Amy Broska had a time of 20:25.77, while sophomore Anna Malesis finished just behind her in 20:26.08. Juniors Jordan Raymond and Sarah Bliesner rounded out the Liberty finishers.
Liberty was hit by the injury bug at the worst possible time, when the Patriots’ No. 2 runner Bliesner came up limping.
The nagging injury affected her district performance the week before, but she powered through it to compete in state, Smith said. She felt good through the first mile of the state race, but Smith said he could tell she was in pain after that.
“You could tell pretty quickly that it wasn’t going to be something she could force her way through,” he said.
Bliesner was the seventh and final Patriot girl to cross the finish line, in 20:46.37.
The Patriots ended with a team average of 19:41.5, and despite what they call a disappointing finish for 2013, the future certainly looks bright for Liberty.
Of the seven finishers, Liberty will see six return, and is set to reload in 2014, thanks to a solid Maywood Middle School program, Smith said.
“It took a long time for our program to get there, but the kids now understand the commitment it takes,” he said. “The level they want to be at required a great amount of work, and they did it.”
Liberty boys relish first state appearance
The Liberty boys squad proved it was one of best teams in the state, capturing ninth place in its first ever state appearance.
The Patriots’ road to state wasn’t an easy one, Smith said, and the boys had to give a historic performance in the district meet a week before just to qualify.
They made it by the skin of their teeth, as the fourth and final team to qualify for state from the Sea-King District.
“We pushed them very hard to give us their best race at districts, because we knew there was absolutely no way we were going to make state otherwise,” Smith said.
The team used up so much emotional and physical energy just to make it to that point, Smith said, that it might have affected their state performance.
“That was really hard for them just to calm down from the high of the district meet, and settle back into training,” he said.
Liberty finished with a team average of 16:41.5 in Pasco. Senior Aaron Bowe was the top finisher, placing 19th overall in 15:55.59. Fellow senior Collin Olson came up eight spots later, crossing the finish line in 16:06.88.
Junior Trevor Sytsma had a time of 16:48.53, while sophomore Andrew Cooper followed just a few seconds later, crossing the finish line in 16:53.75. Senior Mason Goodman, sophomore Michael Daly and junior Nick Bliesner rounded out the rest of the Liberty finishers.
Hazen sends one to state
The Hazen High School cross-country team sent a lone representative to state this year in senior Luis Puga.
Puga, who also plays soccer, finished 120th, crossing the finish line in 17:55.71.