Winning district all downhill for Gilbert

Skyview junior makes strong move to win district

By Paul Valencia, Columbian high school sports reporter

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BATTLE GROUND — Colby Gilbert said he was leaning so much that he almost fell down a couple of times Wednesday afternoon at Lewisville Park.

He was just trying to get that extra burst of speed, taking advantage of the downhills on the 3.1-mile cross country course.

He ended up getting everything out of the race.

Gilbert, a junior from Skyview, took the lead with about three-quarters of a mile to go and outkicked the competition to win the Class 4A District 4 boys cross country championship.

“I was running for my life,” Gilbert said. “I was hurting, too. I got a side cramp (early in the race). I was saying, ‘Not today, not today.’ ”

It turned out, it was his day — for a title. He crossed the line in 16 minutes, 8 seconds.

Freshman Alexis Fuller of Union won the girls title, cruising to victory in 19:06 — 32 seconds ahead of Skview junior Sara Taferre. The two were close to each other for about half the race.

“I just kept my pace going,” Fuller said. “That last mile, you have to push yourself. It was hard.”

Fuller led the Titans to the girls team title, a 45-55 victory over Skyview.

The Titans swept the team competition, with the boys winning their second 4A district crown in a row, a 30-44 win over Battle Ground.

“Two years. That’s pretty awesome,” said Union’s Roman Kirkov, the 2010 district champion who finished second to Gilbert by four seconds Wednesday. “Senior year — going out like that — that’s really good.”

The top three teams and top 15 individuals qualified for regionals, giving themselves a chance to make it to the state meet.

Gilbert’s strategy was to take advantage of the downhills, to give a little extra lean for gravity to aid his performance. He said he made up most of his time during those stretches, catching and passing the leader toward the end of the hilly section of the course.

“I really put the hammer down once I came out of the hills,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert finished second in this race a year ago, then he had a slow start to this season.

“I haven’t had as consistent of a year as I wanted to have, but this is huge,” Gilbert said. “Be grateful. There are plenty of people who want to be as fast as you.”

Kirkov said his strategy was to stick with Battle Ground’s Mark Tedder, who dominated throughout much of the regular season.

Tedder went out fast, perhaps too fast, for the first two miles. He struggled to the finish in fourth place, fell to the ground, and remained there for at least 20 minutes.

“I guess we got too exhausted,” Kirkov said. “Colby just blew past us.”

Kirkov has been battling shin splints much of the season, so he was not disappointed with his finish.

“Coming back and getting second is really good,” he said.

Tanner Sork of Union finished third, a big boost for the Titans in the team competition. Jay Mason of Battle Ground ended up fifth.

The girls race was less dramatic, with Fuller in cruise control. Still, she did not take anything for granted.

“I was so tired of the hills,” she said. “I’m not great at hills. I was so afraid someone would catch me on the hills.”

Didn’t happen. Not even close. Taferre was satisfied with her second-place showing. She beat a personal record on this demanding course.

“I went up the hills a lot faster than I did last year,” she said.

Evergreen’s Sabrina Sears finished third. Skyview’s Haley Velez and Union’s Kaitlyn McKinney rounded out the top five.