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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:

 

GIRLS:

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

 

BOYS:

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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Sam Wynn, seen here in 2019, won two Northwest 2B/1B League track and field titles Saturday. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Ryanne Knoblich comes flying in, while Cristina McGrath gets ready to motor in the 4 x 200 relay. (Deb Smith photos)

The Wolves hang out between events.

Short season, big accomplishments.

The ongoing pandemic limited the high school track and field season to just six meets, but Coupeville’s athletes excelled every step of the way.

Saturday was no different, as the Wolves won five titles and set 21 PR’s during the season-closing Northwest 2B/1B League Championships.

Competing on their home turf, CHS junior Logan Martin and senior Sam Wynn spent the most time on the awards podium, both winning a pair of titles.

Martin was tops in the shot put and discus, while Wynn bolted to a win in the 100, then ran a leg on a triumphant 4 x 100 relay squad.

He was joined on that squad by underclassmen Reiley Aracely, Dominic Coffman, and Aidan Wilson.

Also winning a title was Catherine Lhamon, who crushed the field in her final try at the 3200.

Beating her closest opponent by a minute and six seconds, the Wolf senior lapped four of her six foes.

Coming dangerously close to grabbing league titles were sophomore Ryanne Knoblich (high jump), Wilson (long jump), and the boys 4 x 400 relay unit, which all claimed second-place finishes.

By the time the day had ended, 14 Wolves had set a PR, with seven of them notching two personal bests.

That group included Aurora Cernick, Hank Milnes, Mikey Robinett, Ava Mitten, Camryn Clark, Wynn, and Cristina McGrath.

Perennial track power Mount Vernon Christian, which came to town with a deep, talented squad, claimed both team titles.

Coupeville finished third in the boys battle, and fourth in the girls rumble.

 

Complete Saturday results:

GIRLS:

100 — Ava Mitten (7th) 14.91 *PR*; Abigail Ramirez (8th) 16.10 *PR*; Maylin Steele (9th) 16.16 *PR*; Camryn Clark (14th) 17.51 *PR*

200 — Ja’Kenya Hoskins (3rd) 30.05; Mitten (10th) 31.72 *PR*; Ramirez (12th) 34.28; Steele (13th) 35.30; Clark (15th) 37.56 *PR*

400 — Ryanne Knoblich (5th) 1:13.32

1600 — Catherine Lhamon (3rd) 6:14.18

3200 — Lhamon (1st) 13:28.16

300 Hurdles — Cristina McGrath (7th) 1:03.86 *PR*

4 x 100 Relay — Mitten, Ramirez, Hoskins, Knoblich (3rd) 57.94

4 x 200 Relay — Mitten, Knoblich, C. McGrath, Hoskins (4th) 2:03.80

Discus — Aurora Cernick (4th) 69-10 *PR*; Erica McGrath (10th) 49-07

Javelin — Cernick (8th) 64-05 *PR*; E. McGrath (11th) 57-05

High Jump — Knoblich (2nd) 4-08

Long Jump — Hoskins (6th) 13-01.50; C. McGrath (9th) 12-04 *PR*; E. McGrath (14th) 11-04 *PR*

 

BOYS:

100 — Sam Wynn (1st) 11.79 *PR*; Ben Smith (5th) 12.35; Dominic Coffman (8th) 12.56; Reiley Araceley (10th) 12.76; Dakota Eck (13th) 13.28

200 — Smith (5th) 25.90 *PR*; Mikey Robinett (10th) 29.70

400 — Wynn (3rd) 55.36 *PR*; Robinett (11th) 1:06.47 *PR*

800 — Aidan Wilson (4th) 2:13.01 *PR*; Hank Milnes (6th) 2:34.75 *PR*

1600 — Mitchell Hall (4th) 5:04.60; Milnes (6th) 5:53.28; Tate Wyman (7th) 6:38.09

300 Hurdles — Wyman (5th) 56.20 *PR*

4 x 100 Relay — Wynn, Araceley, Coffman, Wilson (1st) 47.98

4 x 400 Relay — Wynn, Hall, Araceley, Wilson (2nd) 3:53.67

Shot Put — Logan Martin (1st) 42-00; Eck (8th) 29-09.50; Josh Guay (12th) 17-11

Discus — Martin (1st) 146-02; Robinett (11th) 70-06; Guay (15th) 49-11

Javelin — Hall (8th) 89-07 *PR*; Eck (12th) 79-07

High Jump — Coffman (3rd) 5-06

Long Jump — Wilson (2nd) 18-00; Coffman (11th) 15-00.50; Milnes (13th) 14-06 *PR*; Robinett (14th) 14-05.50 *PR*; Eck (18th) 14-00.25

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Tate Wyman set a PR in the 300 hurdles Wednesday. (Deb Smith photos)

Hurry up and wait – the life of a track star.

Dakota Eck becomes one with his shot put.

Abigail Ramirez flies by in the 4 x 100 relay.

With this pandemic-shortened spring sports season in its final days, Coupeville High School track and field athletes only have a few more moments to showcase their skills.

The Wolves are finishing strongly, however, as evidenced by their performance at a four-team meet Wednesday in La Conner.

Led by two-event champs Logan Martin, Sam Wynn, and Aidan Wilson, Coupeville claimed eight titles and 25 PR’s.

Host La Conner edged Mount Vernon Christian to claim both team titles, with Coupeville grabbing solid third-place performances, and Concrete bringing up the rear.

CHS and its rivals close the season Saturday on Whidbey Island, with the Wolves hosting the Northwest 2B/1B League Championships.

The first event kicks off at 11 AM.

Wednesday, Martin dominated in the shot put and discus, while Ryanne Knoblich (high jump), Carolyn Lhamon (shot put), Wynn (400), Wilson (long jump), Catherine Lhamon (3200), and the boys 4 x 100 relay unit also won events.

The relay team included Wynn, Wilson, Reiley Araceley, and Dominic Coffman.

 

Complete Wednesday results:

 

GIRLS:

100 — Ryanne Knoblich (6th) 15.03 *PR*; Abigail Ramirez (8th) 16.12 *PR*; Maylin Steele (9th) 16.49 *PR*; Camryn Clark (11th) 18.57

200 — Ja’Kenya Hoskins (2nd) 29.70; Knoblich (5th) 31.65 *PR*; Cristina McGrath (7th) 33.57 *PR*; Ramirez (8th) 34.21 *PR*; Steele (9th) 35.16 *PR*; Clark (10th) 37.69 *PR*

3200 — Catherine Lhamon (1st) 13:48.03

4 x 100 Relay — Ava Mitten, Ramirez, Hoskins, Carolyn Lhamon (3rd) 58.44

4 x 200 Relay — Mitten, Car. Lhamon, C. McGrath, Hoskins (3rd) 2:06.22

Shot Put — Car. Lhamon (1st) 30-10.50 *PR*

Discus — Aurora Cernick (5th) 65-11; Erica McGrath (7th) 49-08.50

Javelin — Cernick (5th) 62-01; E. McGrath (6th) 61-05 *PR*

High Jump — Knoblich (1st) 4-08

Long Jump — C. McGrath (5th) 11-00.25 *PR*; E. McGrath (7th) 9-00.50 *PR*

 

BOYS:

100 — Ben Smith (3rd) 12.48; Dominic Coffman (5th) 12.57; Reiley Araceley (7th) 12.62 *PR*; Dakota Eck (10th) 13.04 *PR*

200 — Smith (2nd) 25.96 *PR*

400 — Sam Wynn (1st) 59.39 *PR*

800 — Hank Milnes (5th) 2:37.39 *PR*

1600 — Mitchell Hall (4th) 5:12.29; Milnes (5th) 5:52.71 *PR*; Tate Wyman (8th) 6:49.37

300 Hurdles — Wyman (3rd) 58.52 *PR*

4 x 100 Relay — Wynn, Araceley, Coffman, Aidan Wilson (1st) 48.32

4 x 400 Relay — Wynn, Hall, Araceley, Wilson (3rd) 3:54.63

Shot Put — Logan Martin (1st) 39-06; Eck (5th) 32-07 *PR*; Josh Guay (9th) 17-07

Discus — Martin (1st) 146-11; Guay (10th) 51-09 *PR*

Javelin — Martin (5th) 107-08; Hall (8th) 76-08; Eck (10th) 71-07

High Jump — Coffman (3rd) 5-02

Long Jump — Wilson (1st) 18-07 *PR*; Coffman (5th) 16-00.50 *PR*; Araceley (9th) 15-01 *PR*; Eck (13th) 14-07.25; Hall (14th) 14-01 *PR*

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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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Carolyn Lhamon, here running a relay, claimed 1st in the shot put Thursday afternoon. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Dominic Coffman finished 2nd in the high jump.

There was some wind, some rain, and some sports again.

The first two are a given on Whidbey Island, but the ongoing pandemic has made the final part of the equation a lot harder to find.

Thursday marked the first time in 387 days that a Coupeville High School athletic team has competed against other schools in any sport.

For the Wolf track and field squad, which got to launch the return to play by hosting an eight-team meet at Mickey Clark Field, it’s been a lot longer.

650 days to be exact, going all the way back to May 25, 2019 — the final day of the state meet in Cheney.

Only one current Wolf, junior Ja’Kenya Hoskins, was in action that weekend, with longtime CHS coach Randy King welcoming almost a completely different group of athletes this time around.

Seniors Catherine Lhamon and Aurora Cernick and junior Logan Martin are the only other Wolves who had competed in a CHS meet before Thursday rolled around.

The new batch might not be grizzled vets, but they still had a pretty strong debut, however.

The Wolf boys, led by wins in the shot put and discus from Martin, and a victory from their 4 x 100 relay team, finished third in the team standings.

La Conner claimed top team honors with 166.83 points, followed by Mount Vernon Christian (115) and Coupeville (93.33).

Rounding out the boys side of things were Grace Academy (31.5), Friday Harbor (31.33), and Concrete (10).

On the girls side, Coupeville had a lot less athletes available Thursday, but still finished fourth out of seven teams.

La Conner (136 points) led the way, followed by Grace Academy (128), MVC (97), Coupeville (42), Friday Harbor (38), Shoreline Christian (12), and Concrete (3).

Earning top honors for the CHS girls were the Lhamon sisters, with senior Catherine winning the 1600 and sophomore Carolyn coming out on top in the shot put in her high school track debut.

Coupeville racked up 36 PR’s in the season opener.

 

Complete Thursday results:

 

GIRLS:

100 — Ja’Kenya Hoskins (7th) 14.92

200 — Hoskins (3rd) 31.52; Camryn Clark (8th) 39.49 *PR*

400 — Carolyn Lhamon (4th) 1:15.31 *PR*

1600 — Catherine Lhamon (1st) 6:23.99

300 Hurdles — Cristina McGrath (5th) 1:13.42 *PR*

4 x 200 Relay — C. McGrath, Clark, Car. Lhamon, Hoskins (4th) 2:21.23

Shot Put — Car. Lhamon (1st) 28-10 *PR*

Discus — Aurora Cernick (6th) 58-00

Javelin — Cernick (6th) 56-10; Erica McGrath (7th) 49-10 *PR*

Long Jump — Hoskins (4th) 12-11; C. McGrath (12th) 8-09 *PR*

 

BOYS:

100 — Ben Smith (2nd) 12.23 *PR*; Sam Wynn (3rd) 12.30 *PR*; Dominic Coffman (9th) 12.91 *PR*; Dakota Eck (16th) 13.52 *PR*

200 — Smith (4th) 26.21 *PR*; Reiley Araceley (5th) 26.72 *PR*; Mikey Robinett (10th) 30.39 *PR*; Josh Guay (14th) 33.65 *PR*

400 — Robinett (3rd) 1:09.93 *PR*

800 — Aidan Wilson (3rd) 2:25.23 *PR*; Hank Milnes (7th) 2:46.91 *PR*

1600 — Mitchell Hall (5th) 5:36.83 *PR*; Milnes (8th) 6:05.74 *PR*; Tate Wyman (9th) 7:01.97 *PR*

300 Hurdles — Wyman (6th) 1:05.14 *PR*

4 x 100 Relay — Wynn, Araceley, Coffman, Smith (1st) 49.89

4 x 400 Relay — Hall, Araceley, Wynn, Wilson (2nd) 4:05.12

Shot Put — Logan Martin (1st) 44-03 *PR*; Eck (8th) 28-05 *PR*; Guay (15th) 16-03 *PR*

Discus — Martin (1st) 141-02 *PR*; Guay (16th) 41-08 *PR*

Javelin — Hall (8th) 86-10 *PR*; Eck (9th) 81-06.50 *PR*

High Jump — Coffman (2nd) 5-06 *PR*; Alex Murdy (4th) 5-02 *PR*

Long Jump — Wilson (2nd) 17-09 *PR*; Wynn (5th) 15-09.50 *PR*; Eck (8th) 14-10 *PR*; Araceley (9th) 14-09 *PR*; Robinett (14th) 13-04 *PR*; Hall (16th) 13-02 *PR*

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