More than 4,000 cross country runners representing 117 high schools from five states came to Lakewood High School Oct. 9 to compete in the annual Hole in the Wall Invitational. 

“The weather was great, and we were able to get all the races in before the rain,” said Jeff Sowards, who is the co-head coach of Lakewood’s cross country team along with Cullen Cantwell. 

Saturday’s race was the first time the invitational was run in-person since 2019. Last school year’s race was organized virtually during the spring due to COVID-19. 

Sowards said there were fewer teams participating this year, but more runners. 

“People were ready to get back to do something normal this year,” Sowards said. 

He added that 51 of the schools were ranked in their home state. Runners came from Washington, Oregon, Wyoming, Idaho, and California. There were teams from farther away planning to attend, but COVID-19 issues prevented them from participating. 

“Hopefully when COVID passes, we’ll be able to expand a little bit beyond the Pacific Northwest,” Sowards said. 

Races took place throughout the day. James Crabtree, from Sherwood High School in Oregon, posted the best result, and a new course record, with a time of 14:45. Chloe Foerster, from Jesuit High School in Portland, posted the fastest girls time of 17:01, which Sowards said was within a couple seconds of the girls’ course record. Jesuit was first overall in both the Elite Men’s and Women’s divisions.

Locally, Arlington’s Aiden Emerson placed eighth in the 5,000-meters Men’s Elite with a time of 15:22. 

“That’s a pretty good day against some really good teams,” Arlington cross country coach Mike Shierk said. 

Arlington’s Brandon Moore ran 15:47, Kiyoshi Hall ran 16:10, Ryan Rushton ran 16:46, Kellen Langford ran 17:01 and Jadon Chesnutt ran 17:50. 

Overall, Arlington’s boys cross country team placed sixth in the Elite Division. 

In the Women’s Gold Division, Sophia Cushman placed 27th with a time of 19:31. Sophie Gaudin ran 20:29, Olivia Wyatt ran 20:38, Jaiden Cochran ran of 20:52, Brooke Henkin ran 21:27 and Sadie Harris ran 21:35.

Shierk said in a follow-up email that Cushman is poised to compete really well at State and the girls team is poised to return to state as well. Five of the team’s top six girls ran personal records at the invitational. The goal of the girls is to be a state-caliber team.

Shierk said the Hole in the Wall is a great place for runners to participate in a more stressful competition. “You learn how to deal with some big, big dogs.” 

For Lakewood, Gavin Darrah posted the fastest time for the Cougars placing 55th in the Men’s Varsity Gold Division running 17:07. Jarron Ransford ran 17:13, Matthew Hatch ran 17:31, RJ Lydon ran 17:33, and Joey Heisley ran 17:38.

The Cougars placed 16th in the Boys Varsity Gold Division and sixth in the Girls Varsity Silver Division. 

Kayla Schueller placed 32nd for the Cougars running 21:01. Liv Graham ran 21:05, Kayly Barrett ran 21:48, Kylie Sahatdjian ran 21:51 and Natalie Neiffer ran 22:11. 

Sowards said Neiffer, Graham, Schueller and Lydon set personal bests during the Hole in the Wall. The Cougars had 29 runners competing Oct. 9 and 16 of those set personal records. 

Lee Hall of Marysville Pilchuck ran 19:41, Luke Pusateri ran 20:01, Malakai Childress ran 20;17 and Tyee Eliason ran 20:17. For MP girls, Rachel Turral ran 23:25, Cana Cross ran 23:54, Imajine Moses ran 26:24 and Alivia White ran 31:23. 

The Hole in the Wall has been organized annually since 1984, when there were about a dozen teams participating. 

Sowards credits students, school employees and community members who help run the race. 

“The volunteer spirit of the Lakewood community is just great,” Sowards said, highlighting the efforts of Monica Rooney coordinating the volunteers and Larry Delaney who is the emcee for the Hole in the Wall.

He said 125 volunteers and 25 alumni helped run the invitational. Athletes from other Lakewood High School sports teams helped and the Jazz Choir sang the National Anthem. 

“They know how to put on a top-notch race,” Shierk said. “It’s one of the better meets we attend.”

Arlington has a league meet Oct. 13 against Stanwood, Shorewood, Shorecrest and Archbishop Murphy. 

Lakewood competes in the Northwest Conference Championships Oct. 20 while Arlington, Marysville Pilchuck and Marysville Getchell participate in the Wesco Championships Oct. 23. District 1 Championships take place Oct. 30 and the state championship are scheduled for Nov. 6

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