Mercer Island High School girls cross country wins first KingCo title since mid-90s

In their first KingCo title in about a decade, the Mercer Island girls cross country team snatched the title away from Liberty last Thursday, in an upset win.

The girls team, which had lost to Liberty the week before, beat the Patriots at Lake Sammamish State Park, 38 to 50, for the overall team win. The boys team earned a second-place finish, just behind Bellevue.

“Both teams showed up and really rose to the challenge of the day, and worked very well together,” said co-head coach Erica Hill. “The boys team just collectively showed up and had an outstanding race.”

The girls team was led by junior Lindsey Benster, now a two-time KingCo winner, who finished the race with a season best 19:57. Mikayla Davis took second for the Islanders, breaking her own personal record by two full minutes in the race, while freshman Alida Scalzo came in fifth place overall. The Islanders had five scoring runners in the top 18 spots, including: Benster, Davis, Scalzo, Laura Brindley, Sarah Bjarnason, Carly Andersen and Stephanie Pedreira. It’s only the fourth time in school history that the team as won a KingCo title.

In the boys race, senior Aaron Elefson won with a personal best and a new Mercer Island High School record of 15:57, and was the only racer to run faster than 16 minutes. The previous MIHS record was held by Evan Sadler in 2008, who ran the race in 15:59.

“He led the race from the gun,” said Hill. “He ran very strong.”

Seniors Nick Ford, who finished third, and Will Clausen, who took ninth, helped the team to it’s second place finish. Other top placers included Matt Wotipka in 15th place and Andy Wingerson in 16th.

“Nick Ford came on with a powerful last mile to basically tie for second,” said Hill. “The whole team they were very focused and ran with incredible determination. The guys looked awesome.”

Both teams will race this Thursday in the SeaKing district competition at Lower Woodland Park in Seattle. The boys varsity race begins at 2:30 p.m. while the girls race will start at 3:15 p.m.

The top five teams and top 25 individuals from each race will advance to the state race on Saturday, Nov. 6 at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

“The Metro teams have many teams ranked in the top 10 in the state,” said Hill of Thursday’s competition. “Bellevue and Liberty are going to come in hungry. It’s all about who is present and focused to race.”

Photos by Stacy Bjarnason and Sandy Efseaff

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