Blaine, WA - We are less than 10 days from the first cross country meet of 2018 here in Whatcom County. Making our way up north near the border, the next cross country preview takes us to Blaine High School where the Borderites go under a new coaching change and hopefully a new culture swing.
Head Coach: Gabe Bolton (1st Year)
- Coached at Campo Verde in Gilbert, Arizona
- Coached cross for 18 years and track for 23 years
Total Runners: 26
Key Returners: Malachi Crump (So.), Ben Arps (So.), Bailey Bleazard (So.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Aiden Simpson (Jr.), Seth Zuch (Fr.), Connor Hettinga (Fr.)
Just like any school in the Northwest Conference, the Blaine Borderites boys cross country team is young, and when I say that, I mean really, really young. A program in which has been at the bottom of the totem pole for some time now got quite a hire this offseason bringing in head coach Gabe Bolton from Campo Verde High School down in Gilbert, Arizona.
For the first couple of weeks of practicing, coach Bolton likes what he sees so far from his boys team.
"They are a hard working bunch," said Bolton, "They're enthusiastic, they get along well, which is a great way to start a team. I think they are going to do well this year and might even surprise a few people, but they are young so it might take a little while but they will be competitive."
Leading the way for the Borderites are three sophomores in Malachi Crump, Ben Arps, and Bailey Bleazard. Crump is the top returner with a best 5k time of 18:01 from last fall, while Bleazard and Arps ran 19:19 and 19:29. Coach Bolton is impressed by the coachable aspects the boys bring to practice.
"They're gutsy. If I ask them to do something, they do it and plus a little more sometimes."
Junior Aiden Simpson (19:43) and freshmen Seth Zuch and Connor Hettinga show great signs of potential and definitely could make a big impact on the boy's varsity team this fall. Zuch and plenty of other athletes are new to the sport of cross country says coach Bolton. Once things get going and the new kids understand what to do, coach Bolton knows the season will get better as it progresses through.
The bar is set high for the Borderites this fall as coach Bolton would like to see his team qualify for the state meet.
"I want to set a goal that is realistic that the boys can accomplish, and anything on top of that is going to be even better. As the training continues, maybe I will have to readjust my goals to see if they have moved up to a hierarchy of competitive teams. But they will be tough and give it their all."
Coach Bolton understands though as the new head man in town it will take time for the athletes to adjust to his coaching style. He believes the boys success will come later on because they come to practice everyday and give their best effort. The Blaine boys are excited to have a new coach and cannot wait to see where he takes them as they embark into a new era of Borderites cross country.
Key Returners: Taylee McCormick (Jr.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Eleeshiyah Faulkner (Fr.), Claar French (Fr.)
It was only 2 years ago, but the Borderites girls cross country team had a total of 3 runners in their program in 2016. That number has tripled now and coach Bolton has gotten 9 girls to come out for cross country this season. The girls team have a greater spread of training according to coach Bolton.
"All of the girls can run and a few seemed to be more experienced," said Bolton. "Right now, a lot of them are not in great running shape yet, but I do see a lot of potential from them."
Returning junior and team captain Taylee McCormick has the most running experienced out of all the girls on the team this year coming back with the best 5k time of 22:10. She was also the number one distance runner on the track team last spring running the best 800 (2:39) and 1600 (5:55) times for the girl's team.
New to the team, but not new to running, are freshmen Eleeshiyah Faulkner and Claar French. Faulkner had a great middle school cross country and track career where she placed very well in all her events at the middle school championships. As an 8th grader, Faulkner placed 2nd at the Whatcom County Cross Country Championships and 1st in the 100 meter and 100 meter hurdles at the Whatcom County Track and Field Championships.
"Elleshiyah and Claar are really good friends. I think they do almost everything together so I have challenged them that if they want to run together, they both have to be just as a successful. The faster one can't slow down for the slower one, so the other one is got to pick it up a notch."
One girl did qualify for the state meet last fall in Jamie Good, but now that she has moved on from high school, who is going to be the next Borderite girl to make it? Coach Bolton says McCormick has been talking about it a lot recently and seems to have chip on her shoulder from last fall as she was suppose to be the number one girl, but was surpassed by her former teammate.
"Taylee seems to be hungry for a trip to the state meet, but also Elleshiyah and Claar were both successful in middle school and so I am hoping that carries over and they too can qualify for state."
The improvement from all the girls on the team have shown from day 1 according to coach Bolton and he wants that progress to carry on throughout the entire season since a lot of them are new to the sport just like some of the boys.
"I want the runners to come out here and enjoy cross country, and maybe even take a life skill with them. Almost everybody can run years, and years down the road whether that's road races or even light jogs to keep themselves healthy, so if they gain nothing else than a good healthy lifestyle, that is okay with me."