For the first time in Bellingham High School history, senior Cade Brown brought home something a Red Raider boy's runner has never done before: he won a cross country state title.
"I was so proud when I heard my coaches told me that I was the very first." Brown said in an interview last Thursday. "I definitely did not expect that, I was for sure Chris Kwiatkowski (graduate of Bellingham in 2007) who came through the program before me and taken that, but it was a great honor to know I was the first."
To be the first in Bellingham history to win a boy's individual title would be a difficult challenge given the fact he would need to beat Northwest Conference foes from Sehome, Burlington, and Anacortes. But it was his training and determination that made the difference between him and his opponents.
"I think honing in on my perfect race strategy really helped the most. My strategy has never been to lead from the front, it has been hang back, stay within myself until I kick for the end. I was able to put that into place effectively at the State meet."
Cade Brown crosses the finish line at the 2A District Meet at South Whidbey on October 30th, 2017. Brown would go on to win the Class 2A Title in Pasco the following week. Photo taken by Ian Terry.
For most of the State race, Brown trailed behind Archbishop Murphy's Joshua Rauvola and Cedarcrest's Grant Van Valkenburg until the end where he said his kick is what made the difference to get 1st. The year before, Brown went against his own racing strategy as his coach told him to go out quickly early on and tag with the leader. Unfortunately his plan did not go the right way as he lost tons of stamina after the 1st mile and finished in a disappointing 31st place.
"The difference between my junior year and this past season was having a year of training under my belt and developing more strength through age, I was able to go out like I wanted to the year before, but also reserve enough energy to maintain myself and a kick at the end."
He was not alone all year though as he had his team by his side as well. The Bellingham boys' team made their first appearance back to Pasco in 5 years and came away with a third place finish and were only 13 points behind team state champion, Sehome. Brown praised his team for their hard work and determination to get back to where Raider cross country needed to be.
"We were really lucky this year to put together such a strong group that could show we are a powerhouse in this state, even if it was just for one year."
Before he was this great runner we all know today, Brown was a lacrosse player for some time and didn't invest in running until he was in the 7th grade. Both of Brown's parents ran in high school and collegiately, specifically his dad ran for Bellingham, so he knew there was talent hidden somewhere in his genes.
"Both of my parents were both very successful runners in their time, so carrying on their legacy would be very inspiring and helpful for me. I was getting tired of lacrosse and was not enjoying the coaching style as so I wanted to try something new and I turned out for cross country at Kulshan Middle School and fell in love with it immediately."
Brown has appreciated his parents support as he believes it has helped him up to this point in his successful career. Besides his parents' support, it was his freshman year of cross that helped him realize he could be really good at running.
"My first year at state in cross country my freshman year I placed 40th out of 200 or so runners. When I realized I had finished in the top 50, I was so surprised because I came into that meet not knowing what to expect. After I qualified from districts and then complete the state race, I saw my results and knew next 3 years would bring something special."
Cade Brown competing in his freshman year of high school in 2014. Photo taken by Philip Dwyer.
And indeed something special was brought over the last 3 years as Brown has won a total of 31 races between cross country and track while also competing in 5 state meets.
In his final season of track, he would want nothing more than to claim a 3200 state title.
"My first and primary goal is to win the 3200 because that was the event I qualified in last spring, and I got 4th there. The longer the distance, the stronger I am in performing it."
I joked with him about potentially even doubling in the 1600 and 3200, maybe even tripling with the 800 as well this year.
"The 1600 would be great addition." Brown says laughing. "I would love to be able to compete to show my strength in their as well, but the 3200 is my main focus."
The question we might be all having up to this is point is where is Cade Brown taking his talents next year? Brown doesn't know quite yet where he would like to attend school, but he has offers from numerous prestigious schools such as Yale, the U.S. Naval Academy, Santa Clara, and Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California. When he finishes up his college career, Brown would like to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming an astronaut.
The school year is only three months away from being over with and I asked Brown what legacy he would like to leave at Bellingham High School.
"I want to leave a legacy of a strong team. I believe a strong team is the foundation of any high performing team. As for myself, I would like to leave this place knowing I was great leader for all my peers and for future Raiders to come through this school."
You can catch Cade Brown and other Red Raider track and field athletes as they will appear in their first meet on Friday, March 16th at Civic Stadium in the annual "City Meet" between rivals Sehome and Squalicum.