SK coach happy with start

A game of hacky sack generally isn’t a common sight at a track meet, but it made an appearance at Saturday’s sixth annual Bremerton Invitational at Memorial Stadium.

That’s exactly what Olympic distance runner Ryan Benko was found doing after participating in the 400-meter relay.

“It’s a long meet and there’s not too much pressure,” Olympic co-coach Joel Grindeland said. “This is our preparation time for the bigger meets.”

The Olympic boys team finished 10th among 17 participating schools with 25 points. The top five schools were Renton (69), Shelton (61), South Kitsap (55), Gig Harbor (48) and Central Kitsap (41).

Olympic placed sixth on the girls side with 41 points, while CK finished 12th among 18 teams with 19 points. The top five schools were Gig Harbor (78), Port Angeles (66.5), Bellarmine (64), South Kitsap (45) and Yelm (37).

Meet officials didn’t provide individual results by press time.

SK coach Paul Zimmer was happy with the Wolves’ showing.

“We had some pretty good performances coming off a tough Thursday meet against Port Angeles and Gig Harbor,” he said. “Leah Bradley did well in the hurdles and the boys distance runners (also were strong).”

Even though most regarded the meet as more relaxed than others, Zimmer believed his team was inspired to perform well.

“It’s the first big meet of the year and the players like to do well for their teammates,” he said. “I was really impressed with what we did.”

The Cougars used their rivalry with Olympic — the defending state champions in the 400 relay — to edge the Trojans in that event.

“It’s a rivalry and they’ve been talking a lot,” CK’s Nick LaFontaine said.

“There’s a lot of competition here, so it will kind of help prepare us.”

“I think we still can improve,” CK relay runner Crystal Lundahl said. “We were expecting good handoffs and to finish with our personal best (time), which we did.”

The Cougars finished second in the 400-meter relay behind Bainbridge Island.

“Second is good, but first would have been better,” CK’s Shannon Gutierrez said. “Crystal and I had a good handoff, but the one between the second and third runners was kind of shaky.”

Preparing for the future was a common theme with participants during the meet.

“It’s the beginning of the season and I’m working on a lot of things,” said

North Kitsap’s Robyn Embrey, who competes in the hurdles. “I’m need to shorten my stride ... it will all come together.”

The Vikings finished ninth in the girls competition with 26.5 points and 13th on the boys side with 13 points.

Olympic’s Jonell Hodge said his team was sluggish in the 400 relay.

“This was our slowest time all season,” he said. “We’ve run it in 43.7 (seconds) the last two weeks and we were at 44.5 (Saturday). We could’ve done better with the handoffs.”

Benko said the weather played a factor in the Trojans’ struggles.

“I know for myself that the wind really messed up my handoff with Reagan (Lagova),” he said.

Josh Brown, one of Bremerton’s top distance runners, sat out the meet for disciplinary reasons. His absence didn’t help the Knights, who finished last on the boys and girls teams with one and four points, respectively.

“Our numbers are so small that we put on the meet for other people,”

Bremerton coach Lloyd Pugh said. “Hopefully, it will generate some interest for others (at the school).”

The Knights’ boys team didn’t help their cause by being disqualified in the 400 relay.

“I guess I went out too fast and my runner couldn’t catch me,” Bremerton distance runner Kye Price-Simpson said. “We’ve got to improve.”

For others, the meet was a warmup for the Pasco Invitational on April 17.

“It gives you a really good feeling for state,” said Gutierrez, referring to Pasco where the state meet also is held. “The level of competition (at state) will be less of a shock after we go there.”

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