Following greatness is never easy, but the fresh faces on Washougal High School’s (WHS) boys cross country team are excited to prove their mettle.
The Panthers finished second at the 2A state meet in 2018 but lost eight seniors, including Gabriel Dinnell, who finished third at last year’s state meet, to graduation.
“There’s no doubt last year we were one of the top teams in the history of Washougal cross country,” WHS coach Terry Howard said.
The Panthers won their first home meet of the season, Sept. 18 against R.A. Long High School, led by the efforts of Trey Keyser, who finished third, and Caden Lowman.
“It was hard, I’m not going to lie,” Keyser said. “After the first lap I was like, ‘Maybe I can do this,’ but by the end of the race I wasn’t feeling it and was just tired.”
Keyser’s older brother Jackson is WHS’ fastest runner. Jackson, a senior, had his appendix removed over the summer and is waiting to be medically cleared to compete. Jackson, who finished in 34th place at last year’s state meet, was expected to return to action against Woodland High School on Sept. 25.
“We’re just glad that it (appendicitis) happened before the season instead of in the middle of the season,” Howard said.
Lowman, a senior, is embracing his leadership role.
“I know how to strategize and to say, ‘Hey, these are the days we need to work harder,'” he said. “I know when to have fun and when not to have fun.”
Lowman will be a good captain and mentor for the younger athletes, according to Howard.
“It’s a big step up for Caden,” Howard said. “He’s a quiet kid most of the time, but he’s a quality kid and needs to get a little voice behind his actions. He’s already an incredible role model for the kids.”
WHS girls have high expectations
On the girls side, the Panthers look strong despite losing Amelia Pullen to graduation.
Pullen won the 2A state championship last season and is now running for Warner Pacific University.
“We actually look very much like last year because Sidney Boothby is filling in Amelia’s shoes fairly nicely,” Howard said.
Boothby, a freshman, won her first varsity meet against R.A. Long High School, then placed fourth against 14 western Washington teams at the Salt Creek Invitational in Port Angeles on Sept. 21. WHS sophomore Savea Mansfield took 10th place, while junior Meryl Keeler finished 21st.
Mansfield placed 22nd at last year’s state meet.
“We expect to be just as good as we were last year on the girls side,” Howard said. “We expect to do well at state.”