As he crested that last hill in the state championship race, Sean Eustis saw his destiny.
There were two tuckered out runners lagging to the finish line, but the Washougal High School senior had more to prove to himself, his coaches and his teammates than just sixth place.
“Border Clash is top five. That’s where I wanted to go,” Eustis said. “In my mind, I kept thinking ‘Border Clash, Border Clash, Border Clash’ with each step.”
The Panther pounced on the opportunity. All Devon Grove of Lake Washington and Joe Charbonneau of Bellingham could see was a blur of orange and white running right by them.
Eustis accomplished his goal Saturday, at the Sun Willows golf course in Pasco. He qualified for Border Clash by finishing fourth at state with a time of 15 minutes, 39.7 seconds.
“I finally had a good state meet. I feel like I made my parents proud, my team proud and my school proud,” Eustis said. “People said I didn’t run hard enough last week. Today, I wanted to run like Thomas [Normandeau] did at districts. He was an inspiration to us all.”
Isaac Stinchfield notched ninth place at state in 15:49.3. In just his first year running cross country, Normandeau earned 10th place at districts on Oct. 27 (16:48.4) and 50th at state (16:55.4).
“Isaac is the best teammate I could ever ask for,” Eustis said. “I wouldn’t be where I am today without him, my coaches and my parents.”
Eustis will be racing for Team Washington against the best from Oregon at Border Clash 14 Sunday, Nov. 18, at the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton, Ore.
“It’s going to be a surreal experience,” he said. “I’m just hoping to have a good time and make more new friends.”
The Washougal girls cross country runners were thrilled with their first state championship experience. Paige Roberts was the first Panther to cross the finish line in 21:30.2.
“This one was extremely nerve-racking, but I think we handled it well and channelled our nerves into our performance,” Roberts said. “It’s an incredible feeling to know we all made it this far as a team. It’s all I can think of.”
Meredith Collins broke the school’s freshman mark with a time of 21:36.1. Freshman teammate Yaneli Martinez was not far behind in 21:45.
“I’ve been looking forward to doing that all year long. It was a great way to end the season,” Collins said. “Yaneli really pushed me. I honestly couldn’t have broken that record without her. She pushed me all season.”
Hannah Wright (21:54.6), Karina Miller (23:05.3), Megan Anderson (23:32) and Brooke Croeni (23:53.4) left it all on the course. The girls settled for 16th place at state, but there was no question that every single one of them wants to be back next year.
“The best part about today is, we don’t have any senior girls,” said head coach Terry Howard. “It was a great opportunity for them to get exposed to the level of state competition, and hopefully they can all come back and have a lot more success next year.”
Eustis went out the way a senior wants to at state. For the underclassmen, the team experience was the richest prize.
“We had no individual qualifiers, but the whole team still made it to state,” Collins said. “I thought that was really cool.”