Liberty cross-country teams make history

December 4, 2014

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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Mike Smith’s Liberty High School cross-country team wasn’t taking any chances.

After consecutive state meet appearances where something always went wrong on the day of the race, particularly for the girls, the Patriots’ superstitions were on high alert Nov. 8 at Pasco’s Sun Willows Golf Course.

“We were doing all the jinxy things,” Smith said. “We made sure not to stand on the podium the day before, and made sure that all laces were tied eight times. We were totally superstitious at this meet.”

It seemed to pay off, because, for the most part, everything went right for Liberty on a history-making day at the state cross-country championship.

Both boys and girls teams took home the first state trophies in program history, each placing third overall at the 2A level.

The Hazen boys cross-country team finished 15th overall at the 3A state championship, also held in Pasco.

 

The Liberty girls team

By Mike Smith Tyra Christopherson, Liberty High School junior, led the Patriot women, finishing the 3.1-mile course at Pasco in a lifetime best, 19 minutes, 33.46 seconds, good for 16th overall in the WIAA state 2A cross country championships.

By Mike Smith
Tyra Christopherson, Liberty High School junior, led the Patriot women, finishing the 3.1-mile course at Pasco in a lifetime best, 19 minutes, 33.46 seconds, good for 16th overall in the WIAA state 2A cross country championships.

The Liberty girls cross-country team is a small group, consisting of no more than a dozen runners, Smith estimated.

As a result, so much of his focus is upon keeping his team injury-free through a long season.

The team was already at a disadvantage to begin with, as top-returning runner Brigette Takeuchi, a sophomore, was out the majority of the season with an injury, while twin sister Kelsey battled through nagging injuries all the way through the state meet.

That all led to what Smith called a conservative regular season, with an eye toward gearing up for a healthy state meet.

“Our goal was to not get sick or injured to the point where you couldn’t race,” he said.

Under perfect racing conditions, many of Smith’s girls ran career races at the Nov. 8 2A state championship.

Junior Tyra Christopherson led the pack, finishing the 3.1-mile course in a lifetime best 19 minutes, 33.46 seconds, good for 16th overall.

Teammate Carlyn Schmidgall, a junior, had her best time of the season, crossing the finish line in 19:35.20 for 18th overall.

Senior Sarah Bliesner (19th overall, 19:37.55), junior Anna Malesis (42nd overall, 20:18.83), sophomore Kelsey Takeuchi (49th overall, 20:22.59), sophomore Samantha Kelderman (68th overall, 20:43.24) and senior Sydney Hopper (123rd overall, 22:17.81) rounded out the pack.

“They did everything that I had asked of them and really ran hard, so I was really proud of them,” Smith said.

The girls team was ranked second in 2A for much of the year, Smith said, so the team was just a bit disappointed with the third-place finish. Overall, though, after years of narrowly missing the podium, it felt good to hoist the trophy, he said.

“It was really exciting for them to finally get to that point where it was recognized at the state level,” he said. “There were a lot of happy smiles, really no regrets of how they did.”

 

The Liberty boys team

By Mike Smith Andrew Cooper, Liberty High School junior, finished 13th overall at the WIAA state 2A boys cross country championships in 16 minutes, 14.62 seconds. The Patriots took third place as a team.

By Mike Smith
Andrew Cooper, Liberty High School junior, finished 13th overall at the WIAA state 2A boys cross country championships in 16 minutes, 14.62 seconds. The Patriots took third place as a team.

Coming into the state meet, Smith said he knew what to expect from his top two runners, Andrew Cooper and Trevor Sytsma.

It would take big performances from the rest of the pack, though, to make sure the boys found the podium, he said. The pack certainly delivered Nov. 8.

“They all really stepped up,” Smith said. “They were just racing as hard as they could to the finish line and once I saw that, I knew we had a pretty good chance at a trophy.”

The Patriots took third place, led by Cooper (13th overall, 16:14.62) and Sytsma (27th overall, 16:30.47).

Liberty juniors Sean Szymanski (60th overall, 17:06.05) and Nicholas Siegfried (69th overall, 17:13.03) each had lifetime bests.

Sophomore Jake Knoblich (61st overall, 17:06.23), junior Jeffrey Broska (76th overall, 17:20.63) and junior Michael Daly (92nd overall, 17:38.85) rounded out the pack.

The state appearance was just the second in the history of the Liberty boys cross-country program. It first made it as a team last year.

“It was a pretty good season,” Smith said of the boys. “We may have run a little faster last year, but every year is a new year.”

 

Hazen High School

Hazen junior Dario Cirlincione was the Highlanders’ top finisher, crossing the finish line in 16:37.89.

Senior Aaron Rothlisberger (88th overall, 17:04.28), senior Jesus Vargas (95th overall, 17:07.25), junior Graham Manson (109th overall, 17:15.55), junior Logan Dickman (114th overall, 17:20.28) and freshman Drew Wilson (125th overall, 17:29.91) also competed for the Highlanders.

On the girls’ side, Hazen didn’t qualify as a team, but did send two runners to state.

Junior Kate Lilly finished 120th overall (21:26.28) and sophomore Daniela Reyna finished 123rd overall (21:35.09).

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