Connell Recap: Mt. Spokane's Zwiesler Guts Out a Win on Hilly Course

Sandpoint girl's score 28 to win girl's team title with four runners in top 10.

Mt. Spokane's Luke Zwiesler running up the half-mile hill at the Connell Invite on Saturday, September 25, 2021, at Connell High School. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

CONNELL - Imagine having to start a race going downhill. Gravity is carrying all your momentum, and you feel like you are running the fastest you ever have before. Seems pretty straightforward, right?

Like the Connell Invite, most races with a downhill start have a price to be paid for when starting too fast for a race designed like this -- turning around to head up a massive hill to the finish line.

On Saturday, Mt. Spokane's Luke Zwiesler showed toughness and grit for a hilly 5k race at Connell High School, winning the boys varsity race in a personal best run of 16:31.

Coming in off a race he won on Wednesday in Greater Spokane League meet, Zwiesler liked his chances to pick up his second win in four days.

"I got one win earlier in the week, so I figured, 'why not go for another one?'," said Zwiesler.

Zwiesler ran controlled from the start, trailing behind three other runners who immediately sprinted on the downhill start once the gun went off. After passing the leaders within a half-mile, it was a solo effort from there on out.

While the first half of the race was flat for the most part, it was the finish that showed Zweisler was the strongest of all the runners in the field, climbing up the final half-mile of the race with a substantial lead before eventually turning down the last quarter mile to the finish.

The hill didn't appear as bad as it looked, but once Zweisler hit it, the pain started to kick in.

"The last hill was very deceiving," said Zweisler. "It didn't look that bad from the start line, but you don't realize you are couple 100 feet down from the top. It's killing your quads after running 2.5 miles of the race."

Coeur d'Alene's Max Cervi-Skinner finished as the runner-up, clocking a time of 17:13, and led the Vikings to the team title over Zewisler and Mt. Spokane, 34-78. Three other Viking runners finished in the top 10, including Jacob King (4th, 17:21), Zach Cervi-Skinner (5th, 17:24), and Lachlan May (6th, 17:31).

Lewiston's Kobe Wessels was third as an individual running 17:19, while Sandpoint was third as a team scoring 80 points led by Trey Clark's 10th place run of 17:45.

Other top 10 finishers from Washington were Ferris' Isaac Bruce (7th, 17:32), Mt. Spokane's Ben Smith (8th, 17:41), and College Place's Jio Herrera (9th, 17:43).

Sandpoint's Ara Clark won the girl's race in 20:16 to pick up her second win of the season and her first since late August. Clark's teammate Megan Oulman finished 41 seconds behind her to place second in a time of 20:57, while Mackenzie Suhy-Gregoire was fourth running 21:30 and Payton Betz was ninth running 22:01.

The Bulldogs won the team title over Inland Empire rival Coeur d'Alene 28-63.

Mt. Spokane took third place home, scoring 103 points, led by Tabi Koscielski's third-place finish in 21:13 -- the fastest Washington runner on the girl's side.

Tabi Koscielski led Mt. Spokane to a third place team finish at the Connell Invite on Saturday, September 25, 2021, at Connell High School. (Keenan Gray/The Runner WA)

Coming off a 5k personal best run of 20:37 from Wednesday's GSL meet, Koscielski has picked up some confidence in her racing lately.

"I feel these last few races have been more positive," said Koscielski. "Usually, on the second mile, I would start to have a negative thought, but this time around, I just kept pushing through."

But of the courses she has raced on this season, Connell was the toughest of them all. Something her coach had been preaching all season long was to push through adversity, and she got her chance to do so.

"Coach has always been telling us to push through the last mile when you feel like giving up," said Koscielski. "Going up the final hill, I just knew it was another opportunity to take advantage of."

Two other runners from Washington finished in the top 10 in the girl's race in Mt. Spokane's Karly Bowen (8th, 21:59) and Wapato's Betzabeth Zaragoza (10th, 22:27).


For complete results from the 2021 Connel Invite, click here.

To view more photos from the meet, click here.

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