D-o-MI-n-a-t-i-o-n at KingCo | Cross country sweeps league and individual titles, beats archrival Bellevue

Above, the Mercer Island boys cross country team won the KingCo cross country title.  Right, Islander Evan Sadler won the boys individual title.  Far right, Islander Lindsay Benster won the girls individual title as a freshman. - Chad Coleman/ Mercer Island Reporter
Above, the Mercer Island boys cross country team won the KingCo cross country title. Right, Islander Evan Sadler won the boys individual title. Far right, Islander Lindsay Benster won the girls individual title as a freshman.
— image credit: Chad Coleman/ Mercer Island Reporter

The Bellevue and Mercer Island High School rivalry is one of the biggest in the state. That rivalry was renewed on 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 that most do not achieve.

“They’re going to come back strong next week, and we need to keep our attention to the details,” said Mercer Island coach Erica Hill, whose husband, John Hill, is the coach at Bellevue. “John ran with [MI runner] 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 Erica Hill said was invaluable: leadership.

“He gave a great talk just prior to the start of the race that really got everyone ready,” said 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 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 had one big surprise during their 3A KingCo championship performance. Islander freshman Lindsay Benster’s individual first-place finish and sub-19-minute performance (18:49.42) was one of the most unexpected events of the day.

“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 with 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.

All the runners will compete at 2:30 p.m. tomorrow at Lower Woodland Park in Seattle during the district meet.

Junior varsity sweep

The entire Mercer Island program showed that 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 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.

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