LAKEWOOD — Lakewood High School hosted the 30th edition of its hugely popular Hole in the Wall Invitational, Oct. 12.
When Lakewood High School first hosted the cross country event in 1984, 12 teams competed. This year, 85 teams competed in 12 different races, according to Lakewood cross country head coach Jeff Sowards.
When asked why the event has become so popular, Sowards said, “I think part of it is our community is so gracious in their support, and when athletes and coaches go to an event, and the meet is put on well, they want to come back.”
Sowards added, “Don’t get me wrong, the coaches do work hard, but the event’s success is a testament to all of the volunteers who are willing to do work to serve other people, and have this great event.”
Sowards estimated that more than 100 volunteers took part in making this year’s event so successful.
“We had athletes from the volleyball team who helped sell T-shirts and do some crowd control, we had girls from the soccer team who were in the finish chute all day helping make sure the athletes stayed in the right order, we had some football team members who helped in the last race, and we had some football parents who worked the concession stand,” said Sowards. “We had tons of other parents helping, our volleyball coaches were both there, volleyball parents were there, and our superintendent and both principals from the high school were there. It was really a Lakewood community event.”
The Hole in the Wall features a unique racing format not found at other meets. Teams are grouped not by if they’re 4A, 3A, 2A, etc. They are grouped by average time.
“We are proponents of having the best race the best, and race competition that is going to be comparable to your team,” said Sowards. “And, so, we set up the categories so that if your team averages under 18 minutes then you would run in that Varsity 1 race. You can have a 1A school racing a 4A school, and I think the kids really like that. They want to be able to run with the best kids from the other classifications, because you don’t get to do that very often.”
The Lakewood boys team competed in the 5K Varsity 1 race (team average under 18 minutes) and finished tied for fourth place with Bellevue High School.
“Collectively, it was the best race those boys have ever run together,” said Sowards. “It’s not going to be the best they do in their career because they are a very special group and they will continue to improve a bit, here at the end of the season.”
Sowards said he was very pleased with how the boys ran against some of the very best in the state.
“Douglas Davis, who finished at 15:57.4 and in 10th place, broke his own school record, the first time under 16 minutes,” said Sowards. “Mitchell Darrah, who finished at 16:02.7 and in 12th place, had a big PR, just knocking on the door of 16 minutes.”
Lakewood’s Drew Cabales placed 35th with a time of 16:33.5, Alex Cooper finished in 73rd place with a time of 17:02.3, and Jake Ryan had a time of 17:56.3 to finish at 160th place.
The Lakewood girls competed in the 5K Varsity 1 race (team average under 22:30 average) and finished in 17th place.
“The girls, maybe, weren’t as sharp as the boys on that day, but they didn’t run poorly,” said Sowards. “There’s definitely more there, and I think when you read the results of the conference championships, they will have run faster.”
The Lakewood girls team was led by its two youngest members, sophomore Britney Albro, who ran a 20:26.1 to finish in 81st place, and freshman Keely Hall, who placed 89th with a time of 20:32.6.
“They are very talented, very hard working,” said Sowards. “They are dedicated to their workouts, and to their teammates.”
Also competing for the Lakewood girls were Alisa Smith, who placed 95th with a time of 20:36.7, Darby Throndsen, who finished in 119th place with a time of 21:07.1, Rachel Sowards, who finished in 126th place with a time of 21:17.5, and Sara Newman, who place 157th with a time of 21:53.1.
“I think they all are running fast, and they having fun so it will only get better from here.”
The Cougars compete next at the Conference Championships, Oct. 26, at South Whidbey High School.