Cross country teams clinch third place finishes at State


Signe Stroming, Editor-In-Chief

For 86 years, the Curse of the Bambino vexed the Boston Red Sox in its pursuit of a World Series title. Luckily, the Curse of the Podium Picture plagued Liberty cross country for only four.

In past State appearances, the team posed for a picture on the winners’ podium the day before the race. Senior and womens team captain Sarah Bliesner said that this year, the team “agreed to take the picture when we’re actually on the podium getting our trophy, and not before.”

It must have worked.

Both the mens and womens teams clinched third place at the 2A State competition at the Sun Willow Golf Course in Pasco, WA, placing them on the podium for the first time in Liberty cross country history.

“It’s been my goal since freshman year to stand on the podium and so having that my senior year is an awesome feeling, and standing on it with my team is even better,” Bliesner said.

After four consecutive State appearances without placing in the top three, the womens cross country team was hungry for a win at its fifth State appearance. Racing in a “pack,” junior Tyra Christopherson, junior Carlyn Schmidgall, and Bliesner led the womens team to success.

“Running is a really difficult sport, and it is a lot easier when you have your teammates running with you,” Bliesner said. “You can push each other and say, ‘let’s go get this girl in front of us,’ or ‘let’s go catch this next pack.’”

Christopherson achieved a career best with a time of 19:33.46 on the 5k course and led the womens team with a sixteenth place finish out of 141 competitors.

Bliesner also said she struggled to build the team back up after sophomore Varsity runners Brigette and Kelsey Takeuchi suffered a stress fracture and shin splints, respectively.

The competition of November 8 marked the mens team’s second appearance at State. Junior and Varsity runner Andrew Cooper attributed their success to a changing mindset on the mens team.

“We’re getting more of a running culture of working hard and achieving higher goals,” Cooper said. “In the past we’ve only had one or two fast boys and then a really fast girls team because the girls team had a culture of working hard, running fast, and doing well at State. The mens team has never done that, and we’re just now starting to form that culture.”

Cooper led the mens team in the State race, finishing thirteenth out of 141 competitors with a time of 16:12.62 on the 5k course.
Senior and mens team captain Trevor Sytsma is hopeful for the future of mens cross country, but stresses the importance of hard work both during season workouts and over the summer.

“Consistent training during the offseason has always paid big dividends by the end of the year,” Sytsma said. “I hope that some of the upperclassmen take that to heart as they begin to train for the next cross country season.”

The State competition was the culmination of a season marked by successful races. At the District competition on November 1, the mens team finished second and the womens team first, with an incredible four of its seven Varsity runners in the top ten.

At Sub-Districts on October 25, both cross country teams seized first place. The mens team saw two of its Varsity runners in the top five. The womens team saw three in the top five.

The cross country team is already looking forward to next season.

“The ultimate goal is definitely still to win State and we do have a shot at that next year,” Schmidgall said. “If we can get everyone healthy and everyone at a high level, we should have a shot at taking down the number one team—Sehome.”