Liberty girls win Class 2A cross country title

December 4, 2015

By Christina Corrales-Toy

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The Liberty High School team bus was nearly empty when it returned home from the state cross country meet in Pasco.

Most of the Patriots runners just weren’t ready to say goodbye after an historic championship performance Nov. 7.

By Michael Smith The Liberty High School cross country girls team holds its Class 2A state team championship trophy Nov. 7 in Pasco after three finished in the top 20 and all seven running in the final finished 62nd or higher in a field of 140.

By Michael Smith
The Liberty High School cross country girls team holds its Class 2A state team championship trophy Nov. 7 in Pasco after three finished in the top 20 and all seven running in the final finished 62nd or higher in a field of 140.

“They all stayed,” coach Mike Smith said. “They all wanted to stay together in Pasco.”

Who can blame them? It is where the best team in school history won a girls state title, and the boys picked up a second-place trophy last weekend.

Girls

The Liberty girls team sat atop the Class 2A state cross country coaches’ poll for much of the season, but that had little bearing on Smith’s mind when the team arrived in Pasco.

Smith said he stopped trying to predict what would happen at state, because too many factors always come into play, and things frequently seemed to go wrong for Liberty in the past.

“I just told them, ‘Do what you can do and if everything goes according to the plan, then good things are going to happen,’” he said.

Good things did happen. Liberty took the 2A title with 75 points, besting perennial champion Sehome. Junior Brigette Takeuchi was Liberty’s top finisher, placing 11th overall in 19 minutes, 19.8 seconds. The team’s average time was 19:41.7.

Sophomore Sophia Lindstrom (15th, 19:34.3), senior Tyra Christopherson (17th, 19:36.4), senior Carlyn Schmidgall (22nd, 19:45.9), junior Samantha Kelderman (36th, 20:12.1), junior Kelsey Takeuchi (41st, 20:19.5) and junior Sophia Morgan (62nd, 20:45.8) rounded out the pack.

It’s the program’s first state championship and just the second time the team has reached the podium. Last year, the girls earned third place.

The girls made the jump from third to first thanks, in part, to a team-centric culture facilitated by Schmidgall, who took it upon herself to keep the Patriots focused, Smith said.

“She did really well considering she put the team on her back the entire season and kind of sacrificed her game to make sure that they all had a great result,” Smith said.

Liberty also won the 2A academic state title, thanks to the girls’ combined 3.917 grade-point average. The WIAA’s Scholastic Awards Program recognizes the team with the highest GPA among all Washington high schools in their enrollment classification. Winning teams receive a special plaque.

“I was super proud,” Smith said of the academic honor. “School and running, it’s a tough balance. I could never imagine trying to keep up with them when I was in school.”

Boys

The Liberty boys saved their best for the biggest stage.

“Every single boy at state had their personal best,” Smith said. “Every last one of them ran their very best ever.”

Liberty took second overall at the 2A state championships. Andrew Cooper put a cap on a stellar high-school career with a fourth-place finish.

Sean Szymanski (13th, 16:13.5), Jake Knoblich (16th, 16:15.2), Nicholas Siegfried (35th, 16:38.7), Luke Knoblich (77th, 17:12.4), Michael Daly (91st, 17:27.4) and Hunter Good (105th, 17:39.4) were the other Liberty finishers.

The Patriots finished third last year, but improved to second thanks to Cooper’s leadership, Smith said.

“It was his goal to get all the other seniors and underclassmen to be a team,” Smith said. “That was his goal. He really wanted to do well as a team.”

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