Glacier Peak had the front runner and a talented pack. Camas had the upstart freshman and a talented pack.
In the end, the difference between the Class 3A state champion and ‘wait till next year’ was Megan Napier’s biggest race of the season.
In a star-studded field, Napier’s eighth-place finish turned out to be the key to the Papermakers’ first state crown.
“All of our girls did fabulous,” Camas coach Mike Hickey said. “They all sold out and did everything we could ask of them. Everyone contributed. It was truly a team effort.”
Freshman Alexa Efraimson paced Camas with a third-place finish, zipping around the 5-kilometer Sun Willows Golf Course in 17 minutes, 55 seconds.
That she finished 45 seconds off the winning pace was no consequence — North Central’s Katie Knight shattered the course record by 20 seconds.
Two-time defending champ Amy-Eloise Neale of Glacier Peak was second, 18 seconds behind Knight. Her GP teammate, Katie Bianchini finished fifth, getting the Snohomish team off to a strong start.
Senior Austen Reiter, Camas’ No. 2 runner, finished seventh, followed immediately by Napier. Meanwhile, GP’s third runner didn’t cross the line for 23 more seconds, costing the defending champs seven team points in the battle of 3s.
The four and five runners for each team finished in concert, and the Papermakers held on to win 58-60.
“I think if we drew up our best realistic day coming into this meet we would not have thought we could have done this well,” Hickey said. “Alexa ran a great race, and Austen and Megan finishing in the top 8 was just huge.”
Hickey also credited senior Lindsay Wourms, who pushed past two Glacier Peak runners in the final 400 meters.
“If she only gets past one of those girls, we finished tied, then it goes to our No. 6 runners, and they would have beaten us,” Hickey said. “That’s the kind of day it was for us. It’s great to be good and lucky, I guess.”
The team title was the second by a Clark County squad in cross country — boys or girls — and first since Washougal’s 1A girls state title in 1986.
Prairie finished fifth, led by sophomore Nicole Goecke in 16th and senior Taylor Guenther in 20th.
The Camas boys had hopes to bringing home a top-four trophy but had to settle for sixth as all their runners got buried early in the field of 140 runners. Columbia River placed eighth for its best finish in 10 years.
Union freshman Alexis Fuller didn’t take a chance on getting caught up in traffic in the 4A race. She charged out with the leaders early and delivered a second-place finish.
“I was just trying to do my best, trying to stay with the front people as long as I could,” said Fuller, who finished in 18:07.
Of course, staying with the front runner can be dangerous with the likes of Mount Rainier’s Jordan McPhee, who turned in the third best time overall with a 17:24.7, a record performance any other year.
“The first mile was way faster than I had ever been,” Fuller said. “I had to tell myself, ‘stay with them. As much as the pain hurts, you’re still right there.’ “
In the 4A boys race, Skyview’s Colby Gilbert ran the fastest time of any Clark County boy in the meet, placing eighth in 15:34.
A pair of Washougal boys turned in strong finishes in the 2A race. Sean Eustis finished ninth in 15:58, and teammate Isaac Stinchfield was four spots back at 16:04.
In other races, Kyle DeGraaff placed 15th in the 1A boys race (16:47) as La Center placed eighth; Skyview’s Sara Taferre placed 20th in the 4A girls (19:02); and Hockinson’s Chantalle Blundell placed 21st in the 2A girls race (19:31).