SK set for 13th straight state berth

Losing seven runners from last year’s state-qualifying team didn’t deter the South Kitsap High School girls cross-country team from making a state-record 13th straight appearance at the state meet in Pasco.

Year in and year out, SK coach Ed Santos is showing his teams don’t rebuild, they reload.

This year’s squad, which placed third behind Bellarmine and Gig Harbor at the West Central District meet last week, accomplished it’s run to state with just two seniors (Kindel Stepper and Jody Guariz).

“This group has come light years in a year,” Santos said. “Look at all the kids we lost from last year and we have only two girls that ran at districts last year. To have five brand new kids on varsity and to place third at districts this year is great.”

Stepper is the veteran with experience and it’s clearly helped along the underclassmen who continue to challenge their teammate.

At districts junior Kayle Peterson was the top SK finisher at 23rd. Stepper came in one second later for 24th, and sophomore Danielle Friend was just under a second behind Stepper for 25th.

Also strengthening the team has been the running of newcomers Eileen Morely and Lynette Millard.

Expectations were high for last year’s team, which placed a disappointing ninth place.

Santos said it’s very possible this year’s team could place as high if not higher than last year’s team.

“I think a top 10 finish is very realistic,” Santos said. “I’m pretty sure the girls would be pretty disappointed if they didn’t.”

Santos said the teams favored to win include North Central of Spokane, Eisenhower of Yakima, Marysville-Pilchuck, Snohomish, Bellarmine, and Gig Harbor.

But anything is possible, Santos said.

“There’s a whole bunch of teams after that but the weather could dictate who wins.”

Last year teams had to battle wind and rain, which altered the playing field a bit, Santos said.

“It can alter the mindset of teams,” he said. “Slighter girls will have a tougher day if it’s windy.”

Santos said he thinks the SK runners can adjust to any weather condition.

“I’m hoping we have pretty good consistency,” Santos said. “The strategy is for each girl to run her own race.”

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