Lynden, WA - For the past few years, the Bedlington Twilight Invite has been one of coldest and wetter meets on the west side of the state.
This winter hasn't been the kindest to Whatcom County with so much snowfall , but since the first day of spring this past Wednesday, we have had some amazing weather.
Fortunately, athletes from 15 schools were able to run in 60 degree temperatures, with some mild winds, and we got to see some incredible finishes in all six distance races on March 22 at Lynden High School.
Beginning with the girl's 3,200 meter, a very tactical, slow first mile turned into a sprinting finish the last 800 meters that was won by Anacortes High School's Saville Feist in 11:57.92.
From the start, Feist felt no obligation to take an early lead as she ran with a pack of three other girls in the front, something she feels comfortable with.
"I like running with people," said Feist. "It's nice to tuck in and coast with them. Eventually I would start to kick at the end and create separation."
Feist managed to pick it up with 800 meters, but it might have been too early because there was some confusion as to how many laps were left in the race since there were others who thought it was the last lap.
"They said we had two more laps to go so it felt like we were going too fast too early and I didn't know if could hang on." said Feist as she was laughing. "But it ended up being correct so I just went with the top girls and I kicked it in the last 200 meters. I felt I raced smart and it was a lot of fun."
Bellingham's Grace Much finished in second place behind Feist running a time of 12:03.71. Sehome's Rosie Kirker was third in 12:06.19 and Meridian's Kayla Aalpoel was fourth in a personal best time of 12:07.78.
An hour later, the boy's 1,600 took the track and was one of the more intriguing races featuring multiple state participants in both cross country and track and field.
Lynden's Isaiah Ellis took lap one out very strong running 68 seconds as did everyone else in a tight bunch.
Midway through lap two, a new runner in Sedro-Woolley's Rafe Holz took the lead from Ellis and took full control of the race.
"I tried to use the lead runner to break the wind on lap one," said Sedro's Holz. "I saw (Ellis) slowing down on the second lap and that's when I knew I had to get going."
Holz wasn't alone when he made the surge as Sehome's Jacob Alexander and Lucas Cunningham were a few strides away in second and third. By increasing his lead more and more going in the final laps, Holz knew that he gave himself a better chance to win.
Alexander kept making moves on the final lap to get closer and would reach within 15 meters of Holz. It wasn't enough though as Holz managed to pull off a two second victory running 4:33.64, in what he says was "the biggest race I have won so far."
"I was just doing my best to hold him off," said Holz about Alexander's near comeback. "I knew if he had stayed behind me close, the wind wouldn't have been a problem for him and he probably would have beat me."
Alexander's second place time was 4:35.26 and teammate Cunningham was third running 4:43.14.
Sehome's Kirker won the girl's 1,600 race beating Sedro-Woolley's Lauren Benham running 5:44.9, beating her opponents 5:45.72.
Kirker said her plan "was to let someone take it out" and she would trail behind them because she had already run a race earlier in the meet.
And it would be Sedro's Benham she would be chasing after.
Benham appeared to be the second Sedro runner to win a race in a 15 minute span leading the entire race for three laps.
Coming down the back stretch on the final lap, Benham showed she was well on her way to win until Kirker came out of no where with an unlikely kick and speed the Sehome junior has never shown before.
"I was a little tired from the 3,200, but I wasn't gonna let anyone get away from me," said Kirker.
"The last lap I was going to kick it in either way just to get a good workout out of it."
It was a solid double for Sehome's Kirker in the 1,600 and 3,200 placing in the top two in both races.
Anacortes Caitlin Brar rounds up the top three with a third place finish and a time of 5:47.67.
Dont think the Sehome boy's didn't come away with a win though. The likely hood of that is very low.
Cunningham also doubled like Kirker did on the boy's side as he made an appearance in the 800 and won in 2:02.8.
Cunningham, a second place finisher in the 2A 800 state race, faced defending Bedlington 800 champion Landon Sturdevant of Ferndale, as well as Meridian's Jenson Ellars and Bellingham's John Johnson.
The trend of slow starts continued in this race with Sturdevant and Cunningham running the first lap in 62 seconds.
The idea of second place wasn't even in Cunningham's mind as he lead from start to finish.
"It was good to go out strong and execute the race plan," said Cunningham. "I just wanted to sustain with a bit left and pick it up on the last lap."
Because it was a slow first lap, Cunningham and Sturdevant were able to close in a negative split for their final lap with the Sehome senior running in 60 seconds and taking the edge over last year's champion.
Cunningham did clarify he was a little nervous about that last head wind on the final stretch, but it wasn't a factor.
Following the boy's 800, Bellingham's Annika Reiss and Sehome's Cameron Hodges ran what some could argue was by far the best race of the evening in the girl's 800.
It's been two years since Reiss has run a competitive 800 where she ran a personal best time of 2:19.97. This time around, Reiss won in 2:20.31 beating Hodges (2:22.13) by two seconds.
Hodges was a third place finisher in the 2A state 800 race last season.
It was different to see Reiss run such a short race since her best events are long distance, but it just comes to show how good she really is as an all-around runner.
"I think I am more of long distance runner," said Reiss after finishing the 800 and then 4x400 relay.
"It was nice to try though to try new things. I've only gotten a few opportunities to run the 800, so I really enjoyed this chance and I thought it was a good race."
Reiss credits Hodges for having the opportunity to run against one of the best 800 runners at the 2A level as she felt she learned a lot from her.
"I am really thankful we ran in the same race. Being able to run with such a great 800 runner, she kind of showed me how to run it, which was really nice because I haven't had chances to learn how."
Sedro's Benham collected another top three finish as she was third in the 800 running 2:31.47.
In the final race of the evening, Port Townsend's Nathan Cantrell defeated Sedro's Holz in a photo finish separating the two by .25 tenths of a second.
Cantrell's and Holz's times are personal best marks as they ran 9:49.43 and 9:49.68.
It was a two-man race from start to finish as Cantrell and Holz kept trading first and second place back and forth for all eight laps.
"I didn't know I was going up against a great runner like (Holz)," said Cantrell. "He just never stop pushing no matter how fast we went."
Cantrell gained momentum on the last lap and took the advantage of being fresh for this race as he outkicked Holz in the last 200 meters to the finish line, despite the outcome of the race being so close.
Anacortes' Logan Hanrahan finished in third for the Seahawks running 10:24.53.
For more results from this meet, visit: https://www.athletic.net/TrackAndField/MeetResults.aspx?Meet=353462&show=all