Langley, WA - Senior Joseph Skoog and sophomore Brenden Charbeneau finished first and second helping the Jackson Timberwolves boys cross country team claim the district title at the District One 4A Cross Country Championships last Saturday, Oct. 27, at South Whidbey High School.
Skoog and Charbeneau finished their races in a two second span with Skoog running 16:14.81 and Charbeneau running 16:16.88.
Glacier Peak's Riley McDowell (16:33.76), who finished sixth, led the race from the start going out at a really quick pace. Skoog said he wanted to stick behind McDowell to have a shot at winning the individual race.
McDowell would slow it down a bit coming to the 800 meter mark, where Skoog was able to run with him for the rest of the race.
"Soon as I got up to (McDowell) I just followed him the rest of the race," said Skoog. "Eventually the rest of group came back up to us going into the hill."
Skoog, who won the WESCO Conference Championship race, took a five step surge up the long hill and separated himself from the large pack going into the back woods on some narrows trails.
By the end of the trail, Skoog was in first place with a mile to go after a creating a big league. His teammate, Charbeneau, was behind him in second with Carp Mukai (3rd, 16:25.02) of Kamiak.
All the way to the finish, Skoog said his coach told him it was all about keeping focus and having good form to for sure capture his individual crown.
"My coach kept telling me to 'charge down these hills' because the guys behind me were at the top of each one. From there it was about having good form and staying focus and trying to win as easy as possible."
Charbeneau, who placed third at the WESCO Conference Championships, battled with Mukai for the second spot by making quick surges so he could increase his lead over the Kamiak runner on the final mile. Mukai would respond and stay with Charbeneau.
With about 800 meters to go, that's when Charbeneau finally made his move and didn't see Mukai again.
Head coach of the Timberwolves Eric Hruschka said it was awesome to see both Skoog and Charbeneau run really well after having performed great at the WESCO conference meet last week.
"Joseph (Skoog) went into the district championships running a really solid race last week," said Hruschka. "He executed the race plan for the second half of the race running tough. Brenden (Charbeneau) ran even a little better than he did at conference and is buying into the whole training piece."
Jackson's other finishers on the team were Shane Grossman (16:34.12) in seventh, Jordan Hansen (16:44.20) in 14th, Lucas Robert (17:01.42) in 19th, Nathaniel Shin (17:42.96) in 24th, and Connor Holtzclaw (18:29.22) in 36th.
Hruschka was impressd with his number three and four runners, Grossman and Hansen, and how they performed. He believes they ran their best race of the season on what some could argue is one of the toughest courses this state has to offer.
"The top four guys were as solid as we could be I thought. We were a little off on our number five and six runners, but when you get your four up front doing what they did, it helps a lot and that is how you win a championship."
According to Hruschka, he believes his boys team will come in ranked between fifth through eighth next weekend in Pasco at the 4A state meet. They could have the potential to sneak up to the podium as a team he thinks if they run great.
Joining the Timberwolves going to state are the Glacier Peak Grizzlies. The Grizzlies placed second scoring 50 points, seven behind the Timberwolves.
The Grizzlies top runners along with McDowell were Tyler Tanta (4th, 16:27.87) and Elijah Lopez (5th, 16:31.99).
Mount Vernon's Mason Taylor, Monroe's Tyler Rihn, and Kamiak's Jason Blinn will be heading to the state meet as individuals.
Lake Steven's Rio Vitale, Owen Flinn, Bryce Mefford will also be heading to state as individuals.
On Saturday, Nov. 3, the two teams and individuals who qualified for state will race at Sun Willows Golf Course in the 4A Boys State Championships at 2:30 p.m. in Pasco, Washington.