Gasping for air during the race of his life, Sean Eustis looked down at his chest and gained strength.
“I don’t see any blood,” the Washougal High School junior told himself. “I can run harder, I can run faster.”
On his 17th birthday, Eustis outkicked Aberdeen’s Poli Baltazar on the final straightaway toward the finish line to win the 2A boys district cross country championship race Saturday, at Lewisville Park in Battle Ground.
Baltazar had the best time in the state, but Eustis wasn’t phased. Head coach Terry Howard told him the legendary tale of John Colter, a scout from the Lewis and Clark expedition who escaped from 200 Blackfoot Indians. Blood gushed from Colter’s bare feet, chest and forehead as he ran over sharp rocks, sagebrushes and cactuses. The only thing keeping him going was a river six miles away where he thought he could hide.
After hearing that story, Eustis was thankful to look down during the district race and see he was wearing a pair of shoes and a brand new uniform. It was all the motivation he needed.
“What I’ll remember about today is getting to the river,” Eustis said. “Down to that last 200 [meters], I thought I was going to lose, but I made it to the river. It was such a gorgeous trail and the weather couldn’t have been better. Thanks coach.”
Eustis also thanked teammate Isaac Stinchfield for sticking by his side. Together, the two Panthers pushed Baltazar to the brink. Eustis earned the victory with a time of 15 minutes, 42.99 seconds. Baltazar was second in 15:44.68 and Stinchfield took third in 16:02.69.
“I would not be as good without Isaac. He’s like my brother, and the best training partner I could ever have,” Eustis said. “On the course and off the course, you need to have that special bond. Isaac is always there.”
As a reward, both Eustis and Stinchfield will represent Washougal in the 2A state meet this Saturday, on the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
“We both just want to run a good race at state, and have zero regrets afterwards,” Eustis said. “We put Washougal on the map, and we want it to stay on the map.”
Stinchfield challenged Baltazar for the lead several times in the race, before falling back to third.
“I felt good for the first two miles. I was setting the pace with him and Sean,” Stinchfield said. “It was a good lesson for me not to start out so fast. At state, I think I’m going to do a lot better.”