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Islander cross country takes boys and girls league titles
By Matt Phelps
Mercer Island Reporter
The Bellevue and Mercer Island High School rivalry is one of the biggest in the state. That rivalry was renewed Thursday at Lake Sammamish State Park during the 3A KingCo cross country championship and Mercer Island dominated. The Islanders swept all four races, including the boys and girls varsity and junior varsity runs, bringing the rivalry to a level most don't achieve by possibly dividing a family for two hours.
"They're gonna come back strong next week and we need to keep our attention to the details," said Mercer Island head coach Erica Hill, who's husband, John Hill, is the head coach at Bellevue. "John ran with Evan (Sadler) during the summer and I think he will think twice about that next time. But we all root for each other."
Sadler took first during the boys varsity race with a time of 15:59.05.
"I knew I had it in me to run a sub 16 race," said Sadler. "It took a lot of work and training. I really didn't think we had a chance to win as a team."
Mercer Island had finished second to Bellevue two weeks earlier at the Hoquiam invitational. The Wolverines only won the meet by one point but were missing their fourth best runner.
"We put our top four runners in front of Bellevue's No. 2," said Islander Quinn Chasan, who finished seventh overall with a time of 16:28.88 "Everyone ran a great race."
Chasan was nearly 30 seconds off Sadler's pace but gave the team something that Hill said was invaluable - leadership.
"He gave a great talk just prior to the start of the race that really got everyone ready," said Erica Hill.
Islander Tyler Benster finished fourth overall with a time of 16:10.67, while teammate Aaron Elefson finished sixth overall at 16:23.13.
"They all had phenomenal races but James (Kashima) was unbelievable," said Erica Hill.
Kashima finished 12th overall with a season best time of 17:04.20. Islander Leo Phillips finished 19th (17:26.91) and Eric Bower was the final Mercer Island runner to cross the line in 21st place (17:27.56).
Freshman leads girls team to title
The Mercer Island girls did not surprise anyone with their KingCo championship performance. But the biggest surprise of the meet was Islander freshman Lindsay Benster's individual first-place finish and sub 19 minute performance (18:49.42).
"I didn't think I was going to win at the start," said Benster. "I started to think I had a shot during the final mile. Breaking 19 minutes was the biggest surprise for me, though."
Benster is the first freshman in school history to win a cross country 3A KingCo title.
"I think we made history by winning both titles in the same year," said Erica Hill. "I don't think that has ever happened either. But Lindsay has been strong all season and she keeps getting stronger."
Islander senior Phoebe Merritt finished third overall with a time of 19:13.21, while teammate Gabi Goyette made it three Islanders in the top five (19:51.19).
"It is really exciting to get to hang a banner in the gymnasium," said Goyette. "I don't think (the girls) have done that since 1999."
Islander Molly O'Callahan placed 10th overall (20:17.94), while Lauren Sadler finished 12th (20:35.04). Haley Piper crossed the finish line in 20:49.72, placing 14th for Mercer Island, while Lauren Davis rounded out the championship team's runners by placing 16th with a time of 20:56.14.
Junior varsity sweep
The entire Mercer Island program showed it will be a force for years to come as the Mercer Island boys and girls junior varsity teams also placed first during their respective races. While the boys team team did not carry the top individual at KingCo, it did place all of its runners 2-7. The girls team did even better, placing runners in the top 1-4 and in sixth place.