Lynden, WA- For a school known for football not just across the county, but the entire state, it appears now that cross country is starting to make a name for themselves. Stop number 7 on our list takes us to Lynden High School as we take a look at the Lions.
Head Coach: Layne Hutchins (4th Year)
Total Runners: 40
Key Returners: Tate Hutchins (Sr.), Isaiah Ellis (Jr.), Hans Tamminga (Jr.), Rafe Wolfisberg (Jr.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Ethan Jamison (Sr.), Carson VanCleve (Jr.),
It wasn't until last fall when the boys cross country team would start to turn peoples heads around and gain their attention. The Lions were arguably the most improved team in the Northwest Conference last cross country season after getting three athletes to the 2A State Cross Meet and their whole team missed out on state by 1 spot finishing 5th at districts.
Head coach Layne Hutchins was really happy with the success last years group had trophying at two big invites and the big improvements they had made from the year before.
"The guys really started believing in themselves," said Hutchins. "It was a great season last fall. We had a great run, came up a little short, but we were also really proud of the progress that we had made. It feels good to be a program that people now have to look at and watch out for."
A top 5 runner to watch for, and the son of the head coach, senior Tate Hutchins returns for his final season of high school cross country with the hope he can lead the Lions to the schools first team birth in over 40 years. Last fall, Hutchins placed 5th at the 2A State Cross Meet while also running a personal best time of 15:59, one of, if not, the fastest times in school history. Hutchins also had one of the best track season Lynden High School has seen in a while placing 4th at the 2A State Track Meet in both the 800 and 1600.
Junior Isaiah Ellis had join the cross country team his sophomore season after a year of playing football and automatically became a big impact on the team. The 2nd boy to qualify for state returns after running personal best time of 16:46.2 at the state cross meet. He too had a great track season running 4:30 in the 1600, but was not able to qualify for state track due to pneumonia.
Coach Hutchins is going to rely on these two the most this season and would like them to help build a new culture for the program and encourage more people to come run for them.
"Those two are going to be our leaders this year and are also going to help build the right culture to get the team to state. Tate leads by example, not by voice, but by his actions and I think a lot of people respect him because of that. With Isaiah, he is a passionate and determined runner, sometimes we have to pull him back a little because he always wants to work hard."
Accompanying Hutchins and Ellis are juniors Hans Tamminga and Rafe Wolfisberg. Both were on varsity last season as sophomores and ran in the low 17 minute range for the 5k races. Lynden will also want to rely on these two as well as the Lions now make up a solid 4 for their top guys. But the question still remains, just like any other school, who is going to be that 5th runner?
Coach Hutchins says new runner, senior Ethan Jamison, and current varsity runner Carson VanCleve can help this years varsity out. This is Jamison's first year of running after playing soccer for the Lions the last 3 years. VanCleve is battling some injuries, but should be able to run well when healthy.
With only 3 entries from district to the state meet this year, it will be a tough route for the Lions to complete what seems to be the improbable for the last 40 years, but coach Hutchins knows his boys are fully capable to compete with the teams not only in the Northwest Conference, but in the state as well.
"It is a monumental task to qualify, but that is what we want to accomplish. It will be brutal but I think were in the running for that 3rd spot with 6 other teams. It is has been a long 41 years for this program and we want to grab ahold of the opportunity presented in front of us."
Key Returners: Maggie Mussard (Sr.), Maia Jensen (Sr.), Tabitha Revak (Sr.), Cam Oliver (Sr.), Janet Lopez (Sr.)
We Don't Know Them, But We Will: Frances Perry (So.), Amsa Burke (So.)
It has been nearly a decade since the Lady Lions have gotten a girl to the state cross meet and the last to do it was Hannah VanZanten back in 2008. With a lot of senior girls returning to the team this year, a veteran group looks to end that streak.
When head coach Layne Hutchins took over the girls program 4 years ago, there were only 3 girls on the team at the time which is not enough to score at the district meet as a team. As of now, coach Hutchins says there are 14 girls out now running. Now he can have two teams and plenty of competition between them all.
"Not only do we have a varsity now, but we have plenty of girls competing for varsity spots," said Hutchins. "That has been the goal is to try to steadily build on that."
Senior Maggie Mussard is the Lions top runner coming back from last year after running a 5k time of 22:48 at the Northwest Conference Championships. She is one of five returning seniors on the team this fall. The other seniors are Maia Jensen (24:02), Tabitha Revak (24:16), Cam Oliver (24:47), and Janet Lopez (24:54).
"We had a great crew of juniors last year, who are now seniors. They are great leaders and they are encouraging other girls to come out and be part of this team. Plus, they are always thinking about how they can include others not only on the team, but outside of school as well."
Mussard and Jensen were the only 2 seniors that were part of the team 4 years ago when they had just the three girls in the entire program. Coach Hutchins says those two are excited to see the team grow into a bigger program since they hadn't been part of a 7 person varsity team.
Sophomores Frances Perry and Amsa Burke are out for their first year of cross country. Both Perry and Burke did run track in the spring as freshman where Perry's main focus was the 800 and 1600 and Burke was more of sprinter running the 100 and 200. In the team trial they had earlier last week, both girls went 1-2 so definitely keep an eye out on them this year.
What makes the program so great is the idea about running and how fun it really is and how exciting the sport truly is. Coach Hutchins credits his girls for trying to convince others to come out and try the sport.
"The girls out here are so excited to run and are just really happy people. They love to work hard and they continue to be that way every single day. As we have attracted some more runners to come out, everyone is just excited about what we could do as a team and move up a little bit more than where we were at a year ago."
Overall, coach Hutchins main goal for the girls this season is to obviously qualify for state, but to also start rebuilding for the future since a lot of runners this year will be gone after next year.
"Not only do we want to have a full varsity and JV team this year, but the other thing is I want them to be able to go from the bottom of the pack, to the middle this year so that way we give ourselves a chance, and hopefully we do get a couple of girls to go to Pasco."
Both Lynden teams will be action on Saturday at the Sehome Invite starting at 9 a.m.