Dylan Croeni had the tenacity to bring a state cross country title home to Washougal, but defending champion Scott Carlyle of Sehome had the edge in experience.
The battle between the top two high school runners in the 2A boys state championship race had fans on the tiptoes of their feet Saturday, at the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. Croeni grabbed the lead during the third and final mile of the 5,000-meter hilly course, but Carlyle outkicked him to the finish line by one second. Both times were staggering. Carlyle clocked in at 15 minutes, 30.8 seconds, and Croeni followed in 15:31.9.
“I gave it all that last mile. We were both going for the win,” Croeni said. “He had that one extra second in his heart to outkick me.”
It would be understandable for Croeni to want to forget all about that one second, but he would rather embrace it. A year ago at state, Croeni jumped from 74th place as a sophomore to fourth place as a junior. He believed he could compete for a state title as a senior, and that turned him into a more dedicated runner.
“I never thought I’d be able to do something as excruciating as that last mile, let alone run three sub five-minute miles back-to-back,” Croeni said. “That was the hardest battle of my life. To be the one guy who pushed the defending state champion and gave him a run for his money is something I’m never going to forget. It was a really great experience.”