Top talent to square off at Saturday's Birger Solberg Invite Bookmark and Share email this story to a friend E-Mail print story Print Reprint Text Size:

If the Cheney, Bellingham and Interlake girls' distance runners want to make a statement to the school that won the team title at last fall's Class 2A State Cross Country Championships, what better time to do it than at Sehome's own annual track and field invitational?

Runners from the top four 2A girls' cross country teams at the state championships will get a chance to battle it out once again on Saturday, April 9, this time on the track at Civic Stadium in the distance events when the Mariners host the Birger Solberg Invitational. Add in the third-place cross country finisher from last fall's 3A championships, in Oak Harbor, and the fourth place 4A finisher, in Stanwood, and you've got the makings of some exciting distance events.

The girls' distance events are going to be loaded, Sehome coach Kevin Ryan said. We've got a history of strong distance runners in this area, and a number of the teams that are coming are strong in those events, as well. I think it's going to be pretty exciting. The depth in the girls' distance events is amazing. 26 Bedlington Invite

A meet-record 26 teams are expected to participate on Saturday.

Included among those teams are Whatcom County teams from Bellingham, Lynden, Lynden Christian, Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley, Sehome and Squalicum. The Stanwood boys and Sehome girls are the defending meet champions, and both are back this year.

Teams from every classification - from the Bs to 4A - also will be represented.

It's a local event, but it's beyond that, Ryan said. We're bringing in some very strong teams. We've got Curtis from the Tacoma area and some of the 4A powers from the Wesco and some of the 3A powers from the Wesco. We're expecting some very good competition and hopefully some very strong marks ... I think the last few years, word has spread that we have good facilities here at Civic and this is a great opportunity to come and compete against some very strong athletes and try to put up some good marks.

Nowhere is that better seen in the girls' distance events.

The 800 meters will feature a showdown between Cheney's Sanne Holland and Sehome's Kate Hannah, who are ranked No. 4 and No. 5 in the event in Class 2A, respectively. Lynden's Amber Stokes and Bellingham's Bekah Jensen also have turned in top-10 2A times in the event this spring.

The 1,600 will feature Cedar Park Christian's Sally Larson, who has the third-best 1A time this spring, and Holland, who has the fifth-best 2A time. Cedarcrest's Cara Strodel and Bellingham's Allie Reynolds also have top-10 2A times this spring.

The 3,200 will pit Sehome's Taia Wu, Ellie Larson and Natalie Anderson and Bellingham's Molly Leischner, all of whom rank in the top 20 in 2A in the event, against Stanwood's Minna Fields, who ranks eighth in 4A.

The boys' 1,600 also should feature a good battle between Jackson's Blake Nelson, who has the fastest time in the event (4 minutes, 17 seconds) in the state so far this year and defending 1A state champion Tyler King from Coupeville. And don't forget some strong Whatcom County runners, such as Squalicum's David Elliott and Bellingham's Nick Lobb.

The boys' relay events also should be a highlight, particularly the 4x400, which features two of the top 10 teams in all classifications in No. 4 Sehome and No. 9 Jackson.

The girls' 4x100 should also be a showstopper, with Shorewood (No. 4 in all classifications) squaring off with Sehome (No. 9 overall and No. 1 in 2A).

Curtis has a couple of highly ranked 200-meter runners in Jemiel Lowery (No. 3 overall) on the boys' side and Kennadi Bouyer (No. 4 overall) on the girls'.

The all-weather surface at Civic won't be the only area featuring top talent. The girls' long jump boasts state-leader Zoe Moller of Sehome taking on Curtis' Bouyer (No. 8 overall).

Moller, the defending state champion and 2A leader in the triple jump, also will have her work cut out for her in that event against Curtis' Miko Starks and Keza King, who rank fifth and seventh in triple jump, respectively.

The boys' discus will feature Lynden Christian's Joey Spoelstra, who ranks No. 3 in all classifications, taking on Anacortes' Nick Majeske and Sehome's Dale Patterson and Titi Lamositele, who ranked second through fourth in 2A.

The girls' discus also features the Nos. 7 and 8 throwers in all classifications so far this spring in Stanwood's Kaci Jones and Squalicum's Gina Flint.

Flint, who also ranks No. 8 in the shot put, will start the day off by singing the National Anthem before the meet.

Her father (current Squalicum coach Ted Flint) coached with Birger Solberg for a number of years, so it was kind of a natural for me to ask her to sing the anthem, Ryan said.

After Flint kicks things off, the meet will start with a pair of events that usually aren't seen at high school events - the girls' and boys' 2,000-meter steeplechase and the 4x800 relay.

Everybody has fun with the steeplechase, Ryan said. We usually have 150 or 200 people crowding around the water jump just to see that event. It's not an event that is usually held at high school track meets here in Washington, but it's a lot of fun and gives some kids a chance to try it out before they go to college. The 4x800 is something we like to add since this area is so deep in the distance runners and has such a great tradition at these schools. It gives a few more kids a chance to run. We're just hoping to have a lot of fun and post some great marks.

Reach David Rasbach at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or 360-715-2271.

BIRGER SOLBERG INVITATIONAL

When: 10 a.m. Saturday, April 9

Site: Civic Stadium

Tickets: $5 adults, $3 seniors, children 12 and under and students with ASB cards

Whatcom County schools participating: Bellingham, Lynden, Lynden Christian, Mount Baker, Nooksack Valley, Sehome, Squalicum Reach DAVID RASBACH at david.rasbach@bellinghamherald.com or call 715-2271. Similar stories:

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