Ferndale, WA- I guess it was cool to see Jake Locker at Ferndale's football practice, but that wasn't the reason why I made a trip up north. The 8th stop takes us to Ferndale High School for our cross country preview.
Head Coach: Nick Carlson (14th Year)
Total Runners: 33
Key Returners: Eric Maldanado (Jr.), Landon Sturdevant (So.), Isaac Bobadilla (So.), Fischer Drury (So.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Nolan Ramirez (So.), Josiah Bushnell (So.), Owen Cool (Fr.)
For the last couple of years, when anybody would talk about Ferndale boys cross country, one person that comes to mind is Roberto Aguilera, the last Golden Eagle to make it to the state cross meet. But with only one senior leaving the program after last year, this year's Ferndale squad is loaded with a ton of youth.
The Golden Eagles will be arguably the youngest team in the Northwest Conference this season with 5 underclassmen expected to lead the varsity team this year. Of those 5, 4 are sophomores. Head coach Nick Carlson mentioned that he was fortunate enough to coach some great runners and could usually get 1 to 3 runners to state. However, he seems pretty confident in this young bunch and believes they can go a long way.
"They all have a lot of natural talent," said Carlson. "I have never had a team with a chance to make it to state. I've had really good individuals, but this is the first time we've had runners with this potential level that could get them pretty far into the season."
Junior Eric Maldanado and Sophomore Landon Sturdevant highlight the boys team as the top returners from last fall. Both Sturdevant and Maldanado were sub 17:30 in their 5k races. Sturdevant became the first Ferndale freshman last spring to break 2 minutes in the 800 running 1:59. Carlson likes the improvement Maldanado has made this offseason to be able train at the level Sturdevant is at.
"Eric (Maldanado) is right there with Landon. They both have been working together this offseason and they are both really strong runners and are dedicated to this sport. Those two are going to be our 1-2 guys this year."
Mentioning this was a sophomore loaded team, some other runners Carlson believes can help this team out are Isaac Bobadilla (18:08), Fischer Drury (18:04), Nolan Ramirez (18:43), and Josiah Bushnell (19:09).
"These guys have shown a lot of maturity since last season. There is a lot of natural talent, it is just getting them all during the offseason doing what they need to do so when they come into the season, they are ready to roll."
In-coming freshman Owen Cool has shown great signs so far the first couple of weeks of practice that he will be bouncing around with the varsity squad this season.
The unfortunate thing for Ferndale is they are not able to compete against the schools they run against at the district meet from down in the 3A WESCO League, with the exception of Squalicum who is in the Northwest Conference. Just because they are young squad unlike schools from Stanwood, Arlington, and Oak Harbor, Ferndale is someone who you shouldn't take for granted.
"Those schools we face are some big opponents, but I think we kind of have a sleeper team this year with these guys. I really think they can do something special, and they're only sophomores and one junior, so we got a couple years left with them. They just have to stick with it and be disciplined through the whole year."
There is a lot of high goals for this Ferndale squad this year and some exciting things to come. Carlson just wants them to be ready when the time comes and finish strong at the end of the season.
Key Returners: Nicole Guessford (Sr.), Jaclyn Denham (So.), Elisa Herter (So.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Breanna Hanson (So.), Annika Brockett (Fr.), Carley Shaw (Fr.)
The Ferndale girls team seems to be on a different trajectory this fall with not a ton of girls out for this year's team. In past teams, the Ferndale girls would have and equal amount or even more than the boys team.
Sophomore Jaclyn Denham had an incredible freshman campaign both in track and cross country last year. She was the only state cross participant last year for the Golden Eagles and ran a personal best 5k time at the state meet in 19:10. She was first girl from Ferndale to make it to Pasco since Megan Morrison back in 2009.
Head coach Nick Carlson is pretty confident in his top girl to help not only improve the team, but to get back to the state meet as well despite missing out on the rest of track season due to a season ending injury.
"I am pretty confident that Jaclyn will make a return to the state meet. She had problems with her shins during the end of track, but she is all healed up now."
The lone senior on the team is Nicole Guessford, a great basketball player for the Golden Eagles, will be put into a leadership role this year. Sophomores Elisa Herter and Breanna Hanson will help out girls team this year as they are already way ahead in their training from where they were at a year ago coach Carlson said.
Coach Carlson is impressed so far by incoming freshmen Annika Brockett and Carley Shaw. Brockett did not appear to run track or cross in middle school, but Shaw appears to be a hybrid of an athlete because when she was a 7th grader she competed in the 400, 800, 1600, 100 hurdles, and long jump.
Ferndale could have the potential to score a good amount of points in a meet according to coach Carlson, but the girls team just needs enough on a team to get a score.
"There are a few new girls joining us this year so hopefully we can have a full team to give us a chance to score well as a team. We have a couple of exchange students as well so I think we will have plenty for a varsity team."
A rebuild is in the mix this season for the Golden Eagles girls team and experience is going to be the number one thing the team focuses on this upcoming season.
"I want them to know what it is like to compete in a conference that is at a high level," said Carlson. "Have them understand the team aspect does really matter. The 5th, 6th, and 7th place finish is big because passing someone on the last 200 meters or so, it will help the team. It's going to be a learning process."
Both teams will have their first meet this Saturday at Civic Stadium in Bellingham for the Sehome Invite starting at 9:30 a.m.