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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)

GIRLS:

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

BOYS:

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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Maddie Vondrak and the CHS spikers return to the court. (Brian Vick photo)

Wolf senior Drake Borden is back to chase down a few more tennis balls. (Photo by JohnsPhotos.net)

Everything’s a bit topsy-turvy.

As sports return from a pandemic shutdown, things are being played out of order this school year, with fall sports following on the heels of spring sports, with winter sports going last.

Also, the schedules are pared down, with games against only conference foes from the Northwest 2B/1B League.

With Coupeville High School moving from 1A to 2B, there’s also another new wrinkle to scheduling, as boys soccer bounces from spring to fall, now being played in the same season as girls soccer.

In addition, the male booters have a somewhat different set of opponents from other Coupeville teams.

While they face Friday Harbor, Orcas Island, La Conner, and Mount Vernon Christian, both Concrete and Darrington don’t play boys soccer.

They are replaced, for this sport only, by Grace Academy, Providence Classical Christian, and Cedar Park Christian (Lynnwood).

While a sister school, that CPC is not the same one which Coupeville played as a member of the 1A North Sound Conference. That former foe springs from Bothell.

Then there’s tennis, which draws only a single opponent — Friday Harbor — across a six-match death rumble.

The Wolverines join the Wolves as the only NWL teams to embrace the art of the drop shot, and, as mentioned above, there are no non-conference matches to supplement the schedule this time around.

And what of ye olde annual tradition of hosting a Homecoming football game, you ask?

With no dance, limited fan attendance at games, and only two home football games (out of four total), probably best to plan for that returning (hopefully) in fall 2021.

Coaching wise, Ken Stange (boys tennis), Kyle Nelson (girls soccer), Marcus Carr (football), and Cory Whitmore (volleyball) are back.

They’re joined by Robert Wood (boys soccer) and Elizabeth Bitting (cross country), both making their debuts in new coaching positions.

The schedules for this COVID-impacted first season back:

 

BOYS SOCCER:

Wed-Apr. 7 — Friday Harbor — (4:00)
Sat-Apr. 10 — Mount Vernon Christian (1:00)
Tues-Apr. 13 — @ Orcas Island — (4:00)
Fri-Apr. 16 — Cedar Park Christian (Lynnwood) — (6:00)
Wed-Apr. 21 — @ Grace Academy — (3:30)
Sat-Apr. 24 — @ Friday Harbor — (12:30)
Tues-Apr. 27 — @ Mount Vernon Christian — (4:00)
Thur-Apr. 29 — Providence Classical Christian — (6:00)
Mon-May 3 — Orcas Island — (4:00)
Wed-May 5 — @ La Conner — (7:00)

 

BOYS TENNIS:

Wed-Apr. 7 — Friday Harbor — (3:30)
Wed-Apr. 14 — @ Friday Harbor — (4:00)
Wed-Apr. 21 — Friday Harbor — (3:30)
Wed-Apr. 28 — @ Friday Harbor — (4:00)
Mon-May 3 — @ Friday Harbor — (4:00)
Thur-May 6 — Friday Harbor — (3:30)

 

CROSS COUNTRY:

Thur-Apr. 15 — HOME — (3:30)
Fri-Apr. 23 — @ Orcas Island — (3:00)
Fri-Apr. 30 — @ Mount Vernon Christian — (4:00)
Thur-May 6 — HOME — (3:30)

 

FOOTBALL:

Fri-Apr. 9 — Friday Harbor — (5:00)
Fri-Apr. 23 — @ Friday Harbor — (6:00)
Fri-Apr. 30 — @ La Conner — (7:00)
Sat-May 8 — Concrete — (7:00)

 

GIRLS SOCCER:

Fri-Apr. 9 — @ Friday Harbor — (4:00)
Wed-Apr. 14 — La Conner — (6:00)
Sat-Apr. 17 — Mount Vernon Christian — (1:00)
Tues-Apr. 20 — Friday Harbor — (4:00)
Fri-Apr. 23 — @ La Conner — (6:00)
Wed-Apr. 28 — @ Mount Vernon Christian — (4:00)
Sat-May 1 — @ Friday Harbor — (12:30)
Tues-May 4 — La Conner — (6:00)
Fri-May 7 — Mount Vernon Christian (6:00)

 

VOLLEYBALL:
**JV plays first in CMS gym, varsity second in CHS gym**

Thur-Apr. 8 — @ Concrete — (5:00/6:30)
Sat-Apr. 10 — Friday Harbor — (3:30/5:00)
Tues-Apr. 13 — La Conner — (5:00/6:30)
Thur-Apr. 15 — @ Darrington — (5:00/6:30)
Sat-Apr. 17 — Mount Vernon Christian — (5:00/6:30)
Fri-Apr. 23 — @ Orcas Island — (4:00/5:30)
Sat-Apr. 24 — @ Friday Harbor — (4:00/5:30)
Tues-Apr. 27 — Concrete — (5:00/6:30)
Thur-Apr. 29 — @ La Conner — (5:00/6:30)
Sat-May 1 — Darrington — (5:00/6:30)
Tues-May 4 — @ Mount Vernon Christian — (5:00/6:30)
Sat-May 8 — Orcas Island — (3:30/5:00)

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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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