Cross country is now slotted into Season 3 of the WIAA’s revised 2020-21 calendar, which runs in March and April.
When Petersen took over the Bay cross country program in 1995, the Run-A-Ree consisted of five teams. Last year, it had grown to 33 high school teams and 15 middle schools, putting more than 1,200 runners on the course.
“I’m really proud of how we were able to grow the meet,” Petersen said. “It’s led to some problems, but they are good problems to have.”
Along with the bigger meet have come some very talented runners.
“That first year, we had a kid – Shawn Beitelspacher — break the course record, and I remember thinking that record would stand for a long time,” Petersen said. “He ran 16 minutes and won by 45 seconds. But every year, we’d have kids come in who were just getting faster and faster.”
Petersen recalled names like Evergreen’s Paul Limpft, Battle Ground’s Brian Conrath and Skyview’s Matt Moncur. On the girls side, he recalled Hockinson’s Sarah and Shannon Porter, as well as Skyview’s Ana Cabrera, who is now the anchor of the weekend primetime edition of CNN Newsroom.
“Every time I see her on TV, I think ‘I know her. She won the Run-A-Ree a couple of times,’ ” Petersen said.
But a favorite memory came in the 2011 race when Camas’ Alexa Efraimson and Union’s Alexis Fuller made their high school cross country debuts at the Run-A-Ree.
“They went neck-and-neck the whole race,” Petersen said. “Then at the finish (Fuller) made this dive for the line. So we gave the win to her. Little did we know that would be the last time Efraimson would lose a high school race (in Southwest Washington).”
Efraimson would go on to be a three-time All-Region cross country runner of the year, the 2013 Nike Cross Nationals champion and the 2013 Gatorade national girls cross country runner of the year.
When Efraimson skipped her senior cross country season to start her professional career, Fuller was the 2014 All-Region runner of the year and would go on to standout career at Boise State.
They were just two of scores of college standouts who kicked off a high school cross country season at the Run-A-Ree.
“It’s that traditional season-opening meet for Southwest Washington,” he said. “It’s a meet that can really tell you how good your team can be and what you need to work on.”
But he is unsure if the meet will be part of the season in the spring.
“That will be up to the next coaches,” said Petersen, who expects Eric Saueracker and Jamie Gonzales to lead the program. “But if it were up to me, I’d be leaning toward not holding it next spring. It wouldn’t be the same. Our water obstacle is such signature part of our race. It’s what the kids really look forward to. And I don’t think it makes a lot of sense to have kids doing cannonballs when it’s 30 degrees outside.”
When the Run-A-Ree returns to its normal spot on the fall calendar, don’t be surprised to see Petersen there.
“I’ll be there helping out,” he said. “One thing I’ve learned over the year is it takes a lot people to put on a meet like that. And I don’t think I could stay away.”