LAKEWOOD — The Lakewood boys cross country team traveled to Pasco where they completed in the 2A State Meet Nov. 9, and despite high expectations, finished in ninth place.
“It wasn’t what either the boys or the coaches were expecting. We didn’t run particularly well, and there were expectations that would we do much better,” said Lakewood Cross County Head Coach Jeff Sowards, about the ninth place finish.
Lakewood entered the State Meet ranked No. 1 in the coaches poll, and fresh off a 2A District Championship a week earlier where they beat the teams which claimed the top three spots at the State Meet.
“In just a matter of six days something changed. We just didn’t have our best race at state where we could have reasonably expected to win the state championship. But that’s what athletics is all about. You tow the line when the contest starts, and you do your best to win,” said Sowards. “I am really proud of the boys, and their efforts, but it just wasn’t our day.”
Sowards said that while Douglas Davis was the team’s top finisher at 17th place, with a time of 16:19.58, he didn’t run well.
“Douglas had a marginal day,” said Sowards. “Based on the competition, and what he was in shape to do, it wasn’t a particularly good race for him.”
Lakewood’s Drew Cabales ran a 16:27.86 and finished in 21st place.
“On the other hand, Drew’s race was actually a pretty good race for him,” said Sowards. “He set a personal record that day at state, and to set a PR at state oftentimes doesn’t happen, so we’re all pleased with his performance. He was definitely the shining spot in a less-than-stellar day for the other guys.”
In addition to Davis and Cabales competing for the Cougars, Alex Cooper finished in 74th place with a time of 17:09.35, Preston Davis finished in 85th place with a time of 17:20.47, Mitchell Darrah finished in 106th place with a time of 17:36.24, Connor Smith finished in 107th place with a time of 17:36.41, and Jake Ryan finished in 127th place with a time of 18:11.51.
And while the team may not have done as well at the State Meet as they had hoped, Sowards said he is very proud of the team members and what they have been able to accomplish.
“I have no complaints about the season. Both the boys and girls teams are mature, they are unified, and they are committed to each other. I couldn’t be more proud of both teams,” said Sowards. “I think what makes the sting of disappointment even greater is they did everything we asked. They knew that they had planned and prepared as well as any team, actually better than any team that we’ve ever had come through the halls here at Lakewood. They have three school records, they placed higher at meets than we ever have, and they were the first team in this new configuration of our classification to win a district championship.”
Sowards said this team embodies his favorite quote, a line from the movie “The Shootist,” starring John Wayne and Ron Howard.
“In the movie, there is a line that John Wayne, who plays an old gunfighter, gives to the character Ronnie Howard is playing, a young gunfighter who is really fast and really accurate. John Wayne’s character says, ‘It’s not about being fast or accurate, young man,’ and this is the part I tell the kids, ‘It’s about being willing.’ The willingness to prepare. The willingness to tow the line as a warrior in cross country, and to put all your efforts on the line. These kids embodied the willingness. Every practice, every weight room session and every stretching session, they were willing to do the work, and to build the team to be a championship team.”
Sowards added, “Like I told them, my heart aches for them that the prize wasn’t theirs. But, ultimately, the journey and the getting there will be the biggest memory that I will have from this team. This state weekend will be overshadowed by all of the great things accomplished by this team.”