Facing his first serious challenger for the 2A state cross country title Saturday, Dylan Croeni still had more to give.
The Washougal High School senior set an Evergreen State College course record time of 15 minutes, 57.68 seconds to win the district championship race. Croeni outkicked W.F. West runners Dakota Parker (16:06) and Andy Robertson (16:29.39) for the win.
Parker was state runner-up in 2009, and still holds the best time in the state for 2A runners. Croeni is going all out this Saturday at the Sun Willows golf course, in Pasco, to change that.
“[Parker] still leads me in the state rankings by 12 seconds, but that’s irrelevant,” Croeni said. “He didn’t beat me three days ago. To me, that’s all that matters.”
Croeni led the Panther boys to third place as a team at districts, which gives the whole team a ticket to the state meet. Sean Eustis snatched seventh place (16:56.1), Isaac Stinchfield finished 23rd (17:49.6), Brendan Casey claimed 36th (18:21.1). Noah Collins notched 45th (18:37.2), Michael Huck took 57th (19:06) and Josh Banks came in 68th (19:49.6).
The Panther girls grabbed fifth place, two spots shy of qualifying the whole team to state. Kendall Utter kicked it up a notch to finish seventh, in 20:56.92. That is an all-time best by a Washougal girl in school history.
“It is apparently faster than any Panther girl has run in the 21st century,” said head coach Terry Howard. “This result brought the biggest smile all year long to Kendall’s face.”
“My first mile surprised me. I ran a 6:18, which is the fastest mile I ever ran,” Utter said. “I was able to pass one girl at the end, and was a second away from another girl. I’m happy I had the kick to finish strong, and get a good time.”
Since finishing fourth at state last November, Croeni has been on a mission. He has spent the last 12 months training and visualizing this one race that is only five days away.
“State is here already. I can’t believe it,” Croeni said. “This is the reason I get up early every morning and go for a run. This is the reason why I train. Winning region is great, but winning state means more. It’s the highest race you can go.”
Croeni thanks his coaches, teammates, friends and family for supporting him on this journey to be the best runner in the state. He may not know all the of people who cheer him on during the races, but he loves it when they scream “go Washougal!”
“I want to bring home a good medal. It’s something that has never been done before in Washougal,” Croeni said. “I want to leave a mark, a nice big Panther claw mark. Hopefully, it becomes a scar and stays with the school forever.”