Simbeck defeats all seniors at North County Invite

MARYSVILLE The fact that the North County Invite divides runners by graduating class rather than ability can mess up a lot of cross country teams.
To win meets, coaches teach runners to stay with their teammates as long as possible on the course. The teammates can bolster each others confidence, and meet scoring is designed to reward a consistent team over a team with the fastest average time.
As a result, runners often pace themselves with a teammate in a different graduating class. Those runners were thrown for a loop at the Oct. 11 meet hosted by Marysville-Pilchuck, but Arlington senior Luke Passalaqua was not one of those runners.
His varsity teammates Paul Simbeck and Charlie Ewell were both in his senior-class race. Simbeck won the senior race in a blistering 16:57 time, and the trio pulled off top-nine finishes, leading Arlington to a sixth-place team finish.
On the other hand, it challenged the Arlington underclassmen who didnt have their senior pacesetters to run with.
The best way to run is to run together. Stay together as long as you can. We werent able to do that because we were all spread out. Our seniors were able to do that, but it threw off our junior, and it threw off our sophomore, said Arlington coach Mike Shierk.
Passalaqua said one of the advantages of a race by grade instead of the usual varsity-JV divide was the chance for individuals to shine.
You have a better chance of scoring higher because theres fewer people, he said.
An 11th-place finish by Sean Gregory in the junior race and an 18th-place showing by freshman Jacob Fure rounded out the boys top five.
The girls team finished seventh, led by sophomore Safa Pinkens sixth-place finish in her race and a seventh-place showing by Kylie Granato in the freshman race.
(Senior) Sarah Rayner has had some tendonitis, and consequently did not run at the North County Invite, Shierk said of the Arlington girls performance. Our freshman Kylie Granato and sophomore Safa Pinkens had to step up and they did, getting some of their fastest times all season.
Without Rayner, Arlingtons top five places all came from the freshman and sophomore races.
Shierk said he appreciates upperclassmen role models like his seniors, who compete hard and pass the tradition on to the younger runners.
Its kind of like in football. You get a guy whos like a franchise player. Ive got a Luke Passalaqua, a Paul Simbeck and a Charlie Ewell. Theyre seniors, and the younger kids see how hard theyre pushing themselves, Shierk said. It just trickles down to the next generation.
With divisionals and districts coming up Oct. 20 and 27, Passalaqua said the team is focusing hard on speed and getting their best times. His goal? To qualify the boys team for state.
When have we been to state? I dont even know how long, he said. From our rankings, were ranked first in our district. But its not enough to be relaxed, so were going to race hard. We need our five through seven runners to step it up.
Arlington will run divisionals at Lakewood High School Oct. 20 and districts at South Whidbey Oct. 27. At the latter meet, Passalaqua will find out if his Eagles will make their goal.

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