Sports

Lih Kuhlman just enjoying the ride

Lih Kuhlman, gaining confidence with every race, just keeps surprising herself.

The Bremerton sophomore placed third in the combined 4A West Central District/Southwest Washington Regional Cross Country meet on Wednesday, earning a trip to the state championships.

Kuhlman covered the 3.1-mile course at Tumwater Valley Municipal Golf Course in 18 minutes, 45.61 seconds.

“She ran a really strong race,” Bremerton coach Teresa Seim said. “The two other girls who finished in front of her are state-known runners. One (winner Allison Tubbs of Enumclaw) was 11th at state last year and the other one (Narrows League champ Jessie McLaughlin of Olympia) is a state mile champ. Lih (pronounced Lee) hung in there with them a long time.”

Kuhlman didn’t even qualify for district a year ago after placing 16th at the Olympic League meet.

“I didn’t expect this,” Kuhlman said. “I was hoping for a top-15 finish.”

Kuhlman ran in the top-third of the pack during the first mile, then just started picking off runners.

That’s where the Knight runner has shown the most improvement.

“Last year I was always being passed at the end of the race,” she said. “I never had a fast finish. This year I can pass people at the end of the race. I know how to run a race. Last year I had trouble picking a pace.”

Seim was impressed.

“She ran a real smart race,” the Bremerton coach said. “She just keeps getting better. I don’t think she even knows how good she is. We’re both just learning together.”

Kuhlman will be joined at the state meet in Pasco on Nov. 3 by junior Joe Miller, who placed 24th in the boys race with a time of 16:19.53. This will be Miller’s second trip to state. He placed 60th a year ago.

“Joe didn’t run his best race (at district),” Seim said, “but we were fine. He had a sideache the whole race. Still, he was in no danger of not qualifying. We knew he just needed to be in the top 35.”

The top seven teams and top 35 individuals earned berths in the state meet.

Olympic High’s Dan Frederick, who was 22nd (16:18.40), will also be making his second straight state appearance.

On the girls’ side, Olympic’s Megan Walker-Richards (12th, 19:27.32) and Central Kitsap’s trio of Kim Reiland (15th, 19:31.47), Crystal Lundahl (16th, 19:33.13) and Jannel Emery (30th, 20:04.23) earned trips.

Kuhlman’s going to take the same attitude she’s had all season into the state meet.

“I’d like to be in the top 20, but we’ll just see how it goes,” Kuhlman said. “I don’t want to have high expectations. I’ll just do my best.”

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