For runners used to going long, a shortened cross country season isn’t ideal.
But after all the uncertainty and disruption caused to high school sports by the COVID-19 pandemic, just being able to compete is a great thing for Clark County high school runners.
Two of the area’s fastest girls didn’t mind the slushy ground and 40-degree drizzle on Thursday at Hockinson Meadows Community Park.
Hockinson senior Allyson Peterson and Washougal freshman Elle Thomas had a few informal group runs together in the 15 months since the prior cross country season ended.
Thursday, they donned their schools’ singlets, did pre-race cheers with their teammates and toed the starting line for a competitive race.
High school cross country in mid-February? Let’s do this.
“I’m super excited because I was kind of doubting this season was going to happen,” Thomas said. “When I got the email I was super stoked and super excited to run.”
Thomas won Thursday’s 5,000 meter race, pulling away from Peterson at the 2-mile mark to win in 18 minutes, 57 seconds.
The meet, which also included Hudson’s Bay, is part of the seven-week Season 1 on the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association’s modified sports calendar. The season will culminate with a district event no later than March 21.
There won’t be a state meet. That’s a bummer for Peterson, who placed third in the Class 2A championship race on Nov. 9, 2019 in Pasco.
“Yeah it stinks, but I’ve come to peace with it,” Peterson said. “I still have the school record to get, so there’s that.”
Aiming high is what Peterson does. This fall, she’s headed to Colorado Springs, Colo., to run at the Air Force Academy.
In January, she was accepted after a lengthy candidate process that included writing six essays and securing a nomination from a Washington member of Congress.
“It was a very long process,” Peterson said. “But I’m very thankful to have gotten through it and to have gotten accepted. I definitely drew on my cross country background. It made the candidate fitness assessment really easy.”
Peterson’s family has a connection to Air Force. Her uncle went there before becoming a test pilot for Boeing. Peterson isn’t sure if she’ll fly planes — she plans to study behavioral science.
A bright future is something Peterson and Thomas share.
“I’m really thankful to have Elle here this year,” Peterson said. “It’s a great chance to compete. We both want to break 18 (minutes) this year.”
Thomas enters high school competition after going undefeated during the 2019 cross country season at Jemtegaard Middle School. She twice competed at the Junior Olympics National Championships with Vancouver-based Whisper Running.
Thomas, who ran 18:55 in her first high school race on Feb. 11, said she’s excited to compete against older runners. Part of that comes from getting to know others such at Peterson.
“It made it so much easier because I know the different styles of running all of them do,” Thomas said. “That makes me happier and more confident in myself.”
Girl runners to watch
Jasmine Bates, jr., Mountain View: Favorite to win 3A district title after she was runner up in 2019, placed 44th at state.
Gracie Buzzell, so., Camas: Placed 31st at state as a freshman and clocked 18:40 during a Nike virtual 5K last fall.
Lara Carrion, jr., Seton Catholic: District champ placed third in the 1A state meet as a sophomore with a personal best of 18:36.
Alexis Leone, fr., Seton Catholic: Coming off a second-place finish in the Junior Olympics in December, when she ran 14:47 for 4,000 meters. Has a 5K best of 17:58.
Allyson Peterson, sr. Hockinson: 2019 Columbian All-Region runner of the year ran 18:26 to place third in the Class 2A state meet.
Natalie Peddie, so., Camas: Won the Papermakers’ season-opening race against Union in 19:09. Clocked 18:49 in the Nike Hole in the Wall virtual 5K in October.
Elle Thomas, fr., Washougal: Has broken 19 minutes in her first two high school races, winning both. Went undefeated her eighth-grade season.
Samantha Williams, jr. Skyview: Placed fifth in the 2019 4A state meet with a personal best of 18:29.
Boy runners to watch
Daniel Barna, jr., Columbia River: Placed 22nd at state in 2019. Ran a personal best of 16:08 and was 2A GSHL runner up.
Joseph Blanshan, so., La Center: Placed 11th in the 1A state meet in a personal best of 16:22. Defending district champ.
Sam Geiger, sr., Camas: Placed sixth in the 4A state meet in 15:22, helping the Papermakers win the 2019 state title.
Evan Jenkins, jr., Camas: The Columbian All-Region runner of the year placed fourth in the 4A state meet in 2019 with a personal best of 15:18.
Joshua Saeman, sr., Hockinson: Personal best of 16:34. Placed 7th at the district championships and 40th at state.