Posts Tagged ‘cross country’

Elizabeth Bitting, the newest inductee into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame. (Jackie Saia photo)

There are many different types of coaches.

The screamer. The silent leader. Captain gung-ho. The passive-aggressive prodder.

It goes on and on, but the rarest of the bunch may be the fountain of joy.

That’s a coach who really, truly loves their athletes, one who seeks out superstars and marginal role players alike, making each and every one feel important and treasured.

With no disrespect meant to other Coupeville coaches, past or present, one woman stands alone in best exemplifying those traits for Wolf Nation.

Whether working with middle school athletes, or high school competitors, whether guiding track teams or cross country squads, Elizabeth Bitting is our fountain of joy.

Having worked with her for several years now, I can attest to the level of her commitment, which is extraordinary.

Bitting has helped guide champions to their destiny, and exulted in her athlete’s achievement.

But she is also always there when the last runner crawls across the finish line — genuinely thrilled in a two-second improvement for that young girl or boy.

A stellar athlete in high school and college, Bitting continues to compete in running events, from 5K’s to endurance-level tests of the human soul.

She loves running, and it shows in her words and action.

Never more so than when she takes the lessons she’s learned while pounding away on backwoods trails, finds that 12-year-old kid who has never been an athlete, and lights a fire inside of them that they never expected to find.

When you look at Bitting during races, she is a tsunami of joy, and it touches her own athletes and rivals from other schools.

The running guru nimbly installs confidence and joy into each of her young athletes. (Elizabeth Bitting photo)

And that explosion of joy soon filters across the faces of virtually all of her young charges.

Trace the line of photos during a Coupeville Middle School track or cross country season, and you see the growth.

Athletes who looked shy and anxious in the early going have a new confidence as the season plays out.

Half-smiles widen into huge grins, and the interplay between the young Wolves and their exuberant coach becomes a two-way street.

Cross country is often a lonely sport, with runners navigating trails and underbrush off on their own, but it is also a perfect launching pad.

You don’t have to learn intricate team plays, or find your spot in a five or 11-player lineup. You just have to put one foot in front of the other, then celebrate each “win” against your personal clock.

It’s a beautiful entry sport for girls and boys of all sizes, shapes, and athletic backgrounds (or lack thereof).

And how blessed then are the young Wolves, who find the coach awaiting them to be a hardy mix of sunshine and love — a woman who makes their time on the trails a truly positive experience?

Bitting is a joy to work with as a writer, as well.

She’s quick to send info, goes into great detail, and often shoots photos of her young stars which provide a behind-the-scenes look rarely captured by those clicking away from the outside.

Toss in the fact she birthed what we now know as Race the Reserve, and her positive impact on our schools and our community just continues to grow.

Celebrating at Race the Reserve. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

So, while we could wait until retirement to induct her into the Coupeville Sports Hall o’ Fame, the answer to that would be a simple, why?

For one thing, we all hope Bitting keeps at it for years (decades?) to come.

And secondly, inducting her now gives us a chance to reflect a bit of that shine back on to her, to let her know how much we all respect her.

So, after this, when you look up at the top of the blog, under the Legends tab, that’s where you’ll find Bitting hanging out.

Over the years we’ve had a lot of good coaches in Coupeville, and we’ve had a few bad ones. It would be the same in any town.

But no other community has Elizabeth Bitting, which truly sets us apart from the pack.

She is joy unleashed, and we all benefit from being a part of her universe.

A freakin’ fountain of joy, I said. (Morgan White photo)

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Freshman Bryley Gilbert was tabbed as Most Improved when Coupeville High School cross country handed out awards. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Reiley Araceley was honored as Best Teammate.

It is done.

Fall sports came to an official end Wednesday, as the Coupeville High School cross country team closed out banquet season.

The Wolves and coach Paige Spangler honored their three state meet participants — Helen Strelow, Claire Mayne, and Mitchell Hall — while also acknowledging Strelow winning the Northwest 2B/1B League title.

Hall and Strelow were captains this season, while Reiley Araceley (Best Teammate) and Bryley Gilbert (Most Improved) also earned awards.

After a season full of individual and team success, Coupeville is set up well to keep its momentum going into season five of running the comeback trail as an in-school program.

There were no seniors on this fall’s team, and the Wolves can return 19 of 20 runners, with just foreign exchange student Svetlana Vanina guaranteed to depart.


Varsity letter winners:

Reiley Araceley
Carson Field
Bryley Gilbert
Mitchell Hall
Claire Mayne
Cristina McGrath
Hank Milnes
Landon Roberts
Helen Strelow
Thomas Strelow
Cole White
Tate Wyman


Participation certificates:

Edie Bittner
Alex Clark
Dayvon Donavon
Erica McGrath
Alex Merino-Martinez
Nehemia Myles
Svetlana Vanina
Nic Wasik

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Mitchell Hall was one of three Wolves to run at the state cross country meet Saturday. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Helen Strelow (485) and Claire Mayne (486) capped their season with strong work in Pasco. (Morgan White photo)

Best team showing since the ’80s.

Coupeville High School sent three cross country runners to the line at the state meet in Pasco Saturday, the most since Natasha Bamberger was leading the Wolf girls to glory during the “Greed is Good” decade.

Marking the end of the fourth season for the CHS harrier comeback story, juniors Helen Strelow, Claire Mayne, and Mitchell Hall all hit the trails at the Sun Willows Golf Course.

Coupeville previously sent Danny Conlisk and Catherine Lhamon to state — in separate seasons — after reviving its in-house cross country program in 2018.

Hall had the fastest finish of the three Wolves Saturday, claiming 58th while covering the 5,000-meter course in 18 minutes, 44.4 seconds.

There were 112 runners in the boys 1B/2B race.

Mount Vernon Christian, which Coupeville dueled with all season in Northwest 2B/1B League action, finished sixth in the boys team race, with top Hurricane Devin Van Zanten (16:58.9) notching 5th in the individual competition.

Strelow (24:49.0) and Mayne (25:06.1) finished 58th and 62nd in their race, which featured 77 harriers chuggin’ away.

Pope John Paul II and Liberty Bell netted girls and boys team titles, respectively, with Chloe Overberg of Asotin (18:36) and Daniel Quintana of Ilwaco (16:30.9) winning individual crowns.

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Bryley Gilbert pounds towards the finish line. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

Fall sports can’t totally fade out until we’ve used up all our photos.

Today’s collection is a mix of cross country, football, and boys soccer images, with a fan pic tossed in for good measure.

To see more of John Fisken’s photographic work, pop over to:



Scott Hilborn catches up with an old friend.

Edie Bittner hits the finish line.

Xavier Murdy goes for a run.

Cristina McGrath flies across the grass.

Logan Downes sprints to freedom.

Wolf fans support their team.

Tony Garcia: “I’m kicking it way over there!”

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Coupeville junior cross country runner Mitchell Hall is off to the state meet. (Photos by JohnsPhotos.net)

He’ll be joined in Pasco by Helen Strelow.

As well as Claire Mayne. (Morgan White photo)

Cue up the Madonna and Duran Duran playlist. We’re going back to the ’80s!

After a strong performance Thursday at Tri-Districts, the Coupeville High School cross country squad is sending three runners to state, the most since the “Greed is Good” decade.

Helen Strelow, Claire Mayne, and Mitchell Hall all earned their first invites to the big dance, while the Wolf girls missed qualifying as a team by a single point.

Pope John Paul II, a private school from Lacey, won both the girls and boys team titles, with the JP2 girls finishing 1-2-3-4-5-6-7 in the race.

Mount Vernon Christian’s boys and Covenant’s girls claimed second-place, in a meet where the top two teams and top 14 individual runners advanced to state.

Both Coupeville teams finished third, though the Wolf boys were well off MVC at 53-90.

The CHS girls, however, came within 62-63 of Covenant, which hails from Tacoma.

There were runners representing 12 schools Thursday at Ft. Steilacoom.

Two of those schools — Auburn Adventist Academy and Northwest Yeshiva — had their results listed as “exhibition,” however.

Neither school can run at the state meet, since it’s held Saturday, Nov. 6 in Pasco, and religious restrictions prevent athletes at both schools from competing on weekend days.

For Coupeville, sending three runners to state in the same year is a major milestone in year four of the program’s rebirth.

The Wolves sent entire teams to state in the ’80s, when Natasha Bamberger won an individual title.

But the school’s program shut down in the ’90s and stayed dormant for two decades.

During the sabbatical, Tyler King joined Bamberger as an individual state champ, while training and traveling with Oak Harbor, but competing as a one-man Coupeville wrecking crew.

Cross country returned to CHS in 2018, and, since then, the now-graduated Danny Conlisk and Catherine Lhamon both made it to state, but in different years.

Strelow — who won the Northwest 2B/1B League individual title last week — Mayne, and Hall are all juniors.

The other nine Wolves to run for coach Paige Spangler at Tri-Districts included four freshmen, three sophomores, and two other juniors.


Complete Thursday results (5,000 meters):



Helen Strelow (12th) 24:44.4
Claire Mayne (13th) 24:55.1
Cristina McGrath (16th) 26:18.3
Bryley Gilbert (17th) 26:24.6
Erica McGrath (23rd) 30:55.0



Mitchell Hall (12th) 19:15.8
Cole White (15th) 19:24.7
Carson Field (22nd) 20:20.5
Thomas Strelow (24th) 20:29.5
Landon Roberts (25th) 20:34.6
Hank Milnes (31st) 21:29.3
Tate Wyman (39th) 22:47.0

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