Archive for the ‘Cross Country’ Category

Catherine Lhamon claimed the title Thursday as Coupeville High School cross country hosted its first home meet in 30+ years. (Helene Lhamon photo)

Young and ready to run.

Featuring its deepest lineup in the three years since the program was restarted, the Coupeville High School cross country squad kicked off a new season Thursday, running in the sun at Fort Casey State Park.

Wolf coach Elizabeth Bitting sent 13 harriers to the line, with Catherine Lhamon, her lone senior, winning the girls race by almost a minute-and-a-half.

The speedy veteran covered the 3.2-mile course, which was making its debut as the new home for CHS cross country, in 25 minutes, 21 seconds.

While the Wolves returned to trail-running in 2018 after a long absence, Thursday was the first time the school has hosted a cross country meet in three-plus decades.

Afterwards, Bitting was floating on air.

“We wanted it to be perfect … IT WAS!!!!,” she said. “It truly takes a village!! And Coupeville is full of wonderful, caring and helpful people who want to be part of that village!

“Many hands and minds make a lot of work that much easier!”

Bitting praised her helpers, giving props to folks like Nicole Strelow, Amber Wyman, Holley Steller, Wendy Wasik, Helene Lhamon, Jennifer McGrath, Laurie and Randy King and CHS Athletic Director Willie Smith.

Also earning kudos was the course itself, especially with spectacular views of the water and wildlife set off by a genuinely sunny early-spring day.

Cristina McGrath (left) and Helen Strelow outrace a ferry. (Pete Milnes photo)

“The course had high praise from all, the scenery was breathtaking and EVERYBODY PR’d,” Bitting said. “The only thing that could have topped the day off was an appearance of a whale out in the waters … it happened, it actually happened!!!!

“The boys went first and it was such an awesome sight to see them running down the grass field of Fort Casey heading towards the light house,” she added.

“The course is very spectator-friendly and we didn’t have to go far to see the runners moving from point to point.

“All the Wolves pushed themselves and gave it their all. What a great day!”

The CHS girls attack as a pack. (Pete Milnes photo)

While Coupeville’s last home cross country meet came long before any current CHS runner was born, it’s also been a relatively long stretch of time since any of these Wolves got to compete against other schools.

Lhamon capped her junior season by competing at the state meet in Eastern Washington in November, 2019, then … nada.

After the world went wack-a-doodle, prep sports have largely been sidelined during the Age of Coronavirus, with just some off-season workouts finally being allowed.

But now cross country is back, and the hope is to have one season almost on top of another.

With the pandemic pushing the start of fall sports back almost eight months, Coupeville will run a limited four-meet season over the next several weeks.

Then, hopefully, everyone will return to running in the fall with the start of the 2021-2022 school year.

While the Wolves won’t travel to any huge races during this compressed season, they do get to host two of their four meets.

The other home event, set for May 6, is the season-ending Northwest 2B/1B League Championships.

Josh Guay (left) and Alex Bowder run in the sun. (Pete Milnes photo)

Bitting, who is training a strong group of runners at both the middle and high school levels, continues to expand on what former Wolf coaches Natasha Bamberger and Luke Samford helped build.

It’s a CHS roster made up of primarily freshmen and sophomores, with a big batch of CMS 7th and 8th graders ready to join the crusade soon.

Thursday’s meet brought Mount Vernon Christian and Orcas Island to Whidbey, with MVC, a traditional running power, claiming the boys team title.

The Hurricanes swept the top three individual spots, led by Devin Van Zanten, who hit the tape in a speedy 19:41.

Coupeville put sophomore sensation Mitchell Hall and fab frosh Hank Milnes into fourth and fifth, respectively, helping it hold off Orcas for second-place in the team battle.

Freshman Hank Milnes is a star on the rise. (Pete Milnes photo)

On the girls side, the Wolves had four of the top six finishers, but none of the three squads had the necessary five runners to officially claim a team crown.

As day faded into night, Bitting finally found a moment to unwind and deal with a possible sunburn … well, after first being harassed by the media.

You could feel the power of her smile, though, even through the internet.

“After today’s race I am feeling very accomplished for the sport of cross country!,” Bitting said. “I feel blessed to have been a part of this.”


Complete Thursday results:



Catherine Lhamon (1st) 25:21
Helen Strelow (3rd) 28:15
Cristina McGrath (4th) 28:41
Nozomi Hagihara (6th) 33:05



Mitchell Hall (4th) 20:48
Hank Milnes (5th) 23:17
Reiley Araceley (10th) 23:39
Alex Wasik (15th) 24:56
Tate Wyman (17th) 26:52
Grant Steller (18th) 26:53
Josh Guay (20th) 27:35
Alex Bowder (21st) 27:40
Alex Merino-Martinez (22nd) 28:38

Mitchell Hall enjoys his afternoon. (Pete Milnes photo)

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Dylan Robinett was one of 13 Coupeville Middle School athletes to participate in an intramural cross country season. (Jackie Saia photo)

Ayden Wyman slashes through the woods. (Teagan Calkins photo)

Solomon Rudat is ready to run. (Saia photo)

Cross country is booming in Coupeville.

And a large part of that success comes from having a go-get-’em coach running things.

Right before segueing into her new job running the CHS harrier program, Elizabeth Bitting wrapped up an intramural season for Wolf middle school athletes.

While the pandemic is preventing CMS from competing against other rivals this school year, that hasn’t stopped Bitting from preaching the love of getting off your duff and moving those legs.

Under her tutelage, 13 CMS runners participated in part or all of a race series she set up.

The goal was to count the best three times for each athlete over the course of four races.

The race circuit, dubbed “Kemmer’s Course,” started near the CHS baseball field parking lot, then wound its way down the Kettles trail, before finishing its 1.4-mile length over by the football field scoreboard.

Nine of 13 Wolves ran in the final race, with six of them setting PR’s.

Whether they ran in one race, or all four, all 13 Wolves drew praise from their coach.

“Thank you all for participating during this intramural cross-country season,” Bitting said. “It wasn’t ideal, but you sure did make the best of it!

“I am so proud of each and every one of you. The support, encouragement and unity you gave one another showed so much maturity.

“I hope you all continue to participate in sports with the enthusiasm and passion you’ve shown during this time.”


Wolves who completed the series:
(First time is for series, second time for final race; * = PR)


1st – Ayden Wyman – 35:48 (11:36*)
2nd – Gabby Gebhard – 36:02
3rd – Bryley Gilbert – 40:13 (12:43*)
4th – Ivy Rudat – 46:33


1st – Carson Field – 30:04 (9:12*)
2nd – Nic Wasik – 30:59 (10:15)
3rd – Thomas Strelow – 32:47 (10:09*)
4th – Solomon Rudat – 35:57
5th – Dylan Robinett – 40:33 (14:38)


Others who ran in the final race:

Jack Porter – 9:56*
Johnny Porter – 10:33*
Matthew Gilbert – 14:48


Savina Wells also participated, but due to an injury could not complete the series or final race.

Her best time was 12:50, an improvement of 46 seconds from her first race.

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Ivy Rudat leads off a collection of Coupeville Middle School cross country photos. (Portraits by Jackie Saia, action shots by Teagan Calkins)

Cross country is booming in Cow Town.

Year three of the comeback is starting off strongly for Coupeville’s harrier programs, both at the high school and middle school levels.

While the pandemic is preventing CMS runners from competing this school year against rivals from other towns, the young Wolves are still putting in miles and burning up trails in intramural action.

The photos above and below are courtesy Jackie Saia, who shot the portraits, and Teagan Calkins, who lurked in the woods to capture the action shots.

Dylan Robinett

Bryley Gilbert

Solomon Rudat

Thomas Strelow

Ayden Wyman

Savina Wells

Johnny Porter

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Elizabeth Bitting is the new CHS cross country coach. (Jackie Saia photo)

They’ve already won.

As sports continue to return after the long COVID shutdown, the Coupeville High School cross country program has much to cheer.

First, the Wolves get to run, with four meets in a pandemic-shortened season which begins Monday, March 29, and ends May 8.

And when they do, the CHS harriers will take to a familiar course in half those meets, with Coupeville hosting the season opener and the league championships at Fort Casey State Park.

“My biggest thought and triumph are that for this shortened season, and for all foreseeable seasons, and through the turbulent times we’ve had over the past year, we finally have a home course!!!,” said elated Coupeville coach Elizabeth Bitting.

“A course to call our own! It has been close to, if not over 30 years, since Coupeville last had a home course and was able to host a race. This is huge!!!!

“This is something I personally have hoped to see for many years. With our beautiful scenery and spectacular trails, it’s a win, win, win for all — runners and spectators!!!”

When Coupeville schools returned to the world of competitive cross country in 2018, after a long absence, Bitting helped launch the middle school program.

Now, after a family move lured CHS coach Luke Samford to another state, she’s agreed to helm the high school program as well.

The move reunites her with several athletes she previously coached back when they were middle school track and field stars, such as seniors Catherine Lhamon and TJ Rickner.

“This makes it truly a full circle moment for me,” Bitting said.

The last time a Coupeville cross country runner competed was November 9, 2019, when Lhamon capped her junior campaign with an appearance at the state meet.

Catherine Lhamon is a state meet veteran. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Joining the veterans will be a diverse group of runners including Reiley Aracely, Mitchell Hall, Cristina McGrath, Helen Strelow, Alex Wasik, Erica McGrath, Tate Wyman, and Alex Bowder.

Foreign exchange student Nozomi Hagihara, who made her CHS debut as a tennis player, will also be running, while freshman Hank Milnes is expected to have an immediate impact.

“It’s been a pleasure to see Hank grow as a runner, and he is ready for the high school challenge,” Bitting said. “The core group brings some familiar faces eager to get this season started.”

While they will have just over a month in which to run, expect the Wolves to put in considerable work.

“My goal for the season is to concentrate on the run, maintain healthy legs, and make those hills look more like speedbumps,” Bitting said. “An added bonus will be to have each runner feel better each time they lace up their running shoes.

“Hills could win a race, and hills could cost a race,” she added. “Hills also result in strong legs, which athletes need for a strong finish.”

Mitchell Hall is one of Coupeville’s top returning runners. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

With her many coaching roles in Coupeville, Bitting is well-established in the local running scene, and a familiar presence to almost all of her athletes.

Better yet, many of her runners already have a strong connection, as well.

“Our team’s strength is unity,” Bitting said. “Some of these runners have been running together since last summer, and more joined in the open coaching season we had from September 2020 – February 2021.

“They know each other, they know one another’s strengths, they know how to push one another, and most importantly, they know how to support one another.

“The camaraderie these athletes have for one another is mind-blowing. They truly care about one another and will do what it takes to make sure each of them reaches their athletic ability.”

Three of the seven schools in the Northwest 2B/1B League compete in cross country, which pits Coupeville against Orcas Island and Mount Vernon Christian this season.

Bitting enters the season with a mix of confidence and excitement.

“With the past year we have had, I feel the league title is up for grabs,” she said. “There are some athletes not participating in their usual sports due to the rollout of when sports are being played.

“We have athletes who have signed up who haven’t participated in cross country in the past. We have freshman who are eager to begin competing at the next level.

“Whatever happens this season, the foundation for the team’s future is being built and it’s being built pretty strong.”

Building not just for today, but for seasons to come, is a huge part of Bitting’s game plan.

“There is a lot of talent among the whole crew,” she said. “I see great things in this team’s future, both male and female teams.”

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Gabriella Gebhard leads off a collection of Coupeville Middle School cross country pics. (Photos by Jackie Saia and Teagan Calkins)

They’re still running.

While Coupeville Middle School students aren’t competing against other schools during this pandemic-shortened athletic year, they’re still getting a chance to stay active.

CMS Athletic Director Willie Smith, in tandem with his coaches, has arranged for intramural activities, keeping the Wolves in stride.

Cross country has a booming program, pandemic or not, and coach Elizabeth Bitting is putting on a four-race campaign.

Race #3 went down Thursday, and photo bugs Jackie Saia and Teagan Calkins were on hand to capture pics for us.

The portraits are by mom, the action shots by Teagan, a very-talented athlete in her own right.

Nic Wasik

Jack Porter

Bryley Gilbert

Ayden Wyman

Thomas Strelow

Matthew Gilbert

Ivy Rudat

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