Thomas Normandeau has found his calling as a long distance runner.
The Washougal High School senior joined the cross country team last season to get in better shape for soccer.
Back on the trails for the Panthers this fall, Normandeau said he is considering going out for track in the spring.
“Running seems to be opening more doors for me,” he said. “I like the environment. Every single athlete’s parents, and even more people, come to the meets. It feels good to have so many people cheering for you.”
The Washougal boys couldn’t keep up with Mark Morris on the grass, gravel and sand around Capt. William Clark Park.
Normandeau notched second place behind a Monarch with a time of 17 minutes, 44 seconds. Bailey Duncan followed in fifth place (18:37), Anthony Velardi took seventh (19:01), Aiden Pullen placed eighth (19:04), Nick Velardi earned ninth (19:09), Collin Manning claimed 10th (19:17) and Luke Belzer finished 11th (19:26).
Normandeau said a few of the Panthers were dealing with nagging injuries.
“We had kind of a banged up race,” he said. “We just need a little more heart to push through it. We’re getting there.”
Washougal looks for redemption at the league championship meet Thursday, Oct. 24, in Hockinson.
Normandeau is aiming for a return to the state championship meet Saturday, Nov. 9, in Pasco. He hopes his teammates will be by his side at the starting line.
“I want my team to go with me. It’s not as fun by yourself,” Normandeau said. “If I can get up on the podium this time, that would be sweet.”
The Washougal girls had an easier road to victory Thursday. Mark Morris did not have enough runners to fill the team.
Courtney Owens clinched third place for the Panthers (22:43), Hannah Wright followed in fourth (22:50), Karina Miller finished fifth (22:51) and Meredith Collins claimed sixth (23:10). Megan Anderson notched ninth (23:30) and Sydney Hickey took 10th (23:59).
“I couldn’t feel my legs, but my lungs were burning,” Owens said. “That’s how I knew I had a great race.”
Owens gave Wright an assist for screaming words of encouragement as they both headed for the finish line.
“That made me feel good,” Owens said. “It makes me feel like we’re all a family and helping each other.”
Wright said this wasn’t her best race, but she still found a way to help by screaming her head off.
“It’s fun cheering someone else on,” Wright said. “We tried our hardest and we helped a teammate go faster.”
The Washougal middle school team hosted its first race Thursday. Kyle Cooper (11:09) finished in first place for the boys, followed by Gabe Dinnel (11:11), Koy Chaston (11:57), Tanner Lees (14:23) and Ben Adams (14:06). Allison Warta (13:43) earned second place for the girls, followed by Amelia Pullen (14:26), Annabelle Palmer (15:01) and Bridgette McCarthy (16:50).