Sports

King’s West cross country: young, hungry, ready to win

Then-junior Kyle Whitt races at last year’s district championships at Trophy Lake. - Photo courtesy of Emil Heinze
Then-junior Kyle Whitt races at last year’s district championships at Trophy Lake.
— image credit: Photo courtesy of Emil Heinze

Sometimes the underdog catches up, biting the big dog from behind. That’s how a young King’s West cross country team has approached the 2008 season.

The mentality is working.

“We started kind of as underdogs in the league, but now we’re in second (place) and gunning for first,” senior Kyle Whitt said of the boys team. “The guys team this year is really pulling together.”

Whitt is one of only three seniors on the King’s West roster, joining Jarrod Coley and Kristina Moseng, who is the lone senior on the girls side.

But the Warriors have translated youth into eagerness and the drive to win, a mentality longtime coach Dennis Sheline appreciates.

“They’re starting to realize what they can be,” Sheline said of the 15-member roster full of underclassmen.

And with six meets under its belt, the team continues to make progress, as nearly every runner has improved weekly on individual times.

Junior Carlie Rouse has posted the best girls’ times, including three first-place finishes. She won both the SeaTac League Invite #1 and SeaTac League Invite #2 with 5K times of 20 minutes, 58 seconds and 21:29, respectively. She also won the third league meet on a 21:12 run.

“Carlie should be in contention to win districts and make it back to state,” Sheline said. “She is a strong young lady with talent. She is comming off a good track season and running (well) now. I hope that once we start to peak, she will improve a lot more.”

While Rouse figures to vie for a postseason berth, reaching that goal

will be a challenge. Only one SeaTac girls team and five individuals advance to state.

“That makes it really competitive,” she said.

While as a junior Rouse has substantial experience, other Lady Warrior runners such as freshmen Faith Hamilton, Megan Barros and Molly Wheeler, and sophomore Brenna Myers, are still learning the ins and outs of cross country.

“Just learning, preparing for the postseason,” Sheline said of the runners’ approach, explaining the areas the team is working on. “Nutrition, form, technique, going back to the basics.”

Technique and basics are particularly important, Sheline said, because the team is so young. But it’s a trend the coach is accustomed to.

“Here, half the team leaves every year,” he said of KW. “It’s always rebuilding.”

That’s because as a private K-12 school with a study body of 371, including 140 students in grades 9-12, KW is smaller than area schools Olympic, Bremerton, Klahowya and Central Kitsap. Consequently, the cross country turnout is smaller and the turnover is more substantial year-to-year.

Those challenges, however, have helped the team come together.

“Unity,” Sheline said. “The team bonding, both the boys and girls, they’re one big happy family.”

The boys roster is full of runners who appear on the cusp of consistent success. At the most recent league meet, Sept. 25, five boys finished in the top 15, including three sophomores — Kelvin Mason (sixth), Joe Wiltz (13th) and Caleb Bertolini (14th).

“We have a lot of sophomore who have stepped up,” said Whitt, who took eighth on a time of 19:20 at the Sept. 25 meet.

King’s West hosts the King’s West Invite today at Erlands Point Park, welcoming crosstown rival Klahowya as well as Vashon Island.

“It’s our course, there’s going to be some big schools,” Whitt said. “It’s a long shot, but we still want to win.”

Rouse and Whitt said Erlands is a narrow, heavily wooded course, making it hard to pass runners in mid-race.

Moseng won’t run today due to injury, meaning the girls will be shorthanded. Sophomores Jimmy Prehm and Josiah Wilson, and freshmen Shawn O’Brien and Kirk Lestelle, complete the boys roster.

The King’s West Invite begins at 10 a.m. The course opens for walking at 8:30 a.m.

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