Yacine Guermali was all alone as he crested the last hill, but the Camas High School senior knew this was no time to coast.
A state championship was waiting for him at the bottom.
“I knew if I just finished hard, I would have it. When I finally got to the line, it was just a huge relief,” Guermali said. “Special moment. Bit emotional for me. I’ll definitely share this with my team and my coaches as a huge accomplishment.”
Guermali captured the 4A boys state cross country title Saturday, on the Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. He beat 161 runners to the finish line in 15 minutes, 12.7 seconds.
“Honestly, there are no words for how I feel about Yacine winning today,” said head coach Laurie Porter. “I knew he could do it. He has the desire and he just exceeded expectations.”
A year ago in this race, Guermali lost a shoe and fell back to 37th place. This time around, he stayed with the leaders and made a big move in the last half-mile.
“I was going to wait a little bit longer, but I figured it’s state. It’s time to take risks,” Guermali said. “I’ll remember the finish. I had to bargain with myself and say, ‘How bad do I really want this?’ It was a good investment to finish hard like that.”
Daniel Maton notched eighth place in 15:43 to help the Papermakers rise to fifth place in the team standings. Jackson Lyne (16:44), David Connell (16:47.4), Nicholas Carter (16:56.2), Nick Duffy (16:56.7) and Cade Greseth (17:02.8) helped the boys improve from sixth-place finishes the previous two seasons.
Although Guermali, Carter, Duffy and Greseth graduate from the program in June, they have no problem handing the reigns to Maton, Lyne and Connell.
“They are kind of the huge workhorses of our team,” Guermali said. “When it’s time to rest, they want to put in even more work.”
In the 4A girls race, Issaquah spoiled Camas’ bid for a third straight state team title. The Eagles bested the Papermakers for the championship by 18 points.
Emma Jenkins earned fifth place for Camas (18:21.7), Halle Jenkins took 20th place (19:02.2), Ellie Postma claimed 26th place (19:14.7) and Madison Child notched 34th place (19:27.3). Kaylee Merritt (20:06), Brooke Roy (20:30.7) and Rachel Blair (20:34.8) rounded out the race for the Papermakers.
“I think all of us had a tough race,” said Emma Jenkins, adding that the team was not at full strength due to injuries and illness. “We gave it our all. There’s nothing more we can do.”
By finishing in second place, all seven Camas girls qualified for BorderClash. The race takes place Sunday, Nov. 20, at the Nike World Headquarters, in Beaverton, Oregon.
Coach Porter said this is a reward for all the hard work the athletes have put into the past six years. Since 2011, the Camas girls team has earned first place at state four times and second place twice.
“I give all the credit to the kids and my coaching staff,” Porter said. “Just train year-around and keep our eyes on the prize. We want to come back and make Camas proud. Just keep fighting.”