Prep cross country: Mountlake Terrace girls taking aim at state title

Ballinger Park will serve as the venue for the MTHS cross country teams' opening meet of the 2015 season. A new 2.7 mile course will be laid out on the mowed trails of the former golf course grounds.
Ballinger Park will serve as the venue for the Mountlake Terrace cross country teams’ opening meet of the 2015 season. A new 2.7 mile course will be laid out on the mowed trails of the former golf course grounds.

After finishing fifth in 2013 and second last season, the Mountlake Terrace has  been climbing the podium at the state girls cross country championships the past two years; this year the Hawks hope to end at the top of the heap.

The Mountlake Terrace cross country squads open their 2015 season on Thursday, Sept. 17, with a three-team meet being held at a new venue for the sport, Ballinger Park in Mountlake Terrace.

Coach Todd Weber is welcoming back this season his top seven girl runners from last year’s State 3A Girls Cross Country Championship runner-up team, and the squad has set a high bar for this season. “Our goal is going to be a top-four finish (at state), with our eye on the big prize,” Weber said. “If we stay healthy and happy, we have a pretty decent shot at the top spot.”

Back for another run at a state title are Katherine Gustafson, Katherine Walter, Ella Schroth, Sophia Nelson and Jessica Ong, along with 10 other runners who Weber noted adds depth to an already power-packed, experienced squad.

While the Lady Hawks may be one of the favorites to take the 3A state crown, Weber pointed out that qualifying for the state meet isn’t necessarily a gimme. “There are a lot of good teams in the Wesco League that could make some noise at state,” he said, “with Glacier Peak, Lynnwood, and Edmonds-Woodway making our conference the toughest in the state.”

While the girls are looking to punch their ticket to state again this fall as a team, on the boys’ side Weber sees two Hawk individual runners with a chance to qualify for the state meet. “Junior Braeden Sims and junior Nick Leidig are our leaders,” Weber said. “Both are very talented and have great shots of making it to state.”

Weber is hoping to see his boys’ squad finish the season in the top half of the Wesco 3A standings. “We have potential to be a top-six team in our 12-team Wesco League if they keep working hard and putting in the miles.”

Both the Mountlake Terrace boys and girls teams will get their first crack at Wesco competition on Thursday when they face the squads from Edmonds-Woodway and Stanwood on a brand new course being staked out at Ballinger Park, 23000 Lakeview Drive in Mountlake Terrace. Home cross country meets for the Hawks have previously been held at the high school, but with the conversion of the former Lake Ballinger Golf Course into parkland, Mountlake Terrace and Edmonds-Woodway coaches have brought cross country competition to the site.

“This is the brain child of coach Al Bonney (Edmonds-Woodway),” Weber said of bringing cross country meets to Ballinger Park. “I have assisted in certain aspects of the course development, but Al has been the work horse. It’s coming along nicely and I think when it’s all said and done this could be one of the better cross country courses around in the next couple of years.”

The new 2.7 mile course at Ballinger Park will get its first running on Thursday with junior varsity races beginning at 3:45 p.m. The girls’ varsity race is scheduled to go off at 4:15 p.m, with the boys’ varsity race following at approximately 4:45 p.m.

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