Lakewood cross country poised for special season

LAKEWOOD — While the Lakewood boys cross country team has enjoyed its fair share of the spotlight for the last several years, Cougar coaches say the girls team is poised to have a breakthrough season.

Once again, the Lakewood boys return several strong runners which has earned the squad an appearance in the top 10 of the state preseason poll, led by last year’s top two, senior Nick Devier and junior Taylor Guske.

But with polls based on a team’s known quantities, the Lakewood girls team flies under the radar. In each of the last two years, Lakewood has graduated its top female runner but returned several strong underclassmen. With a couple of years under their belts now, those girls have the confidence and hard work on their side to surprise some people.

Once again, the girls will be led by a senior. With the loss of state cross country and track standout Sarah Dunn to graduation — she goes on to Washington State — Lacey Nation is poised to fill her shoes.

“I don’t think anyone has a lock on their position but Lacey has that kind of senior power,” said Lakewood coach Jeff Sowards.

But Sowards is quick to add that the team’s top five to seven girls run so consistently well that on a good day, any one of them could finish first for the team. An ability to finish as a group is a good scoring strategy for teams. The top five finishers’ places are added up, with the lowest score winning.

Rounding out the next four in some order should be Amber Brunell, Yvette Kelp, Chelsea Sowards and Chelsea Stokes.

While the boys return Devier and Guske, they lost seniors like Terrence Ordonez, Trevor Walker and Miles Rossow from further down the depth chart. Stepping up to fill their shoes are two boys who ran with the team at last year’s state meet, junior Chad Skiles and sophomore Trent Tresch.

“The key for the boys and girls teams will be where they’re at mentally,” said fellow Lakewood coach Jon Murray. “Ninety percent is the mental part.”

The highlight of the season will be a trip to Palo Alto, Calif., where the varsity team will compete in the Stanford Invitational Sept. 27. The visit will include a tour of San Francisco and Stanford University and a stop at the Aames Research Center where one of the high school’s recent graduates works for NASA.

But the team has its eyes on the end of the season and the meet that counts most — state.

“They’re untested right now, but we think they’ll be there,” Sowards said.

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