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Cross country teams on the fence over Sunfair Invite
YAKIMA — The Sunfair Cross Country Invitational was expected to draw more than 2,500 runners, including those from Kingston and North Kitsap high schools, Sept. 29. According to invite registrar James Thomas, 108 teams had registered.
Because of poor air quality caused by the fires in Eastern Washington, the invite was delayed one week. It’s now scheduled for Oct. 6.
The new registration total (as of Thursday morning): 28.
“You take a sport that you’re running for 15-20 minutes; you’re going to get all that fine particulate in your lungs,” Thomas said. “We didn’t think it was a good idea.”
The North Kitsap cross country team will discuss whether or not to go at practice today, assistant coach Jonathan Erickson said Thursday.
Kingston head coach Karla Manuguid said it is uncertain if the Bucs will be present this year.
The fires in Eastern Washington, including the Wenatchee complex, have burned more than 100 square miles. Firefighters from around the Northwest, including those from North Kitsap Fire & Rescue and Poulsbo Fire Department, have been sent to help in battling the blazes.
When it comes to deciding whether or not to go to the invite, it’s a tough choice.
The weekend of Oct. 6 is homecoming weekend for North Kitsap. Many of the runners are involved in other extracurricular activities and will stay in Kitsap. The homecoming football game against North Mason is Oct. 5 (kickoff is 7 p.m.).
However, there are still about 22 runners who will be able to go from North, Erickson said. That number reflects most of the girls varsity runners, who took first place at the Salt Creek Invitational Sept. 15. Those runners include Reagan Colyer, Clara Lund and Kathleen Ramsey, who earned the top three times at meets at Olympic High School Sept. 19 and Kingston High School Sept. 26.
Though the Sunfair Invite does not count toward a runners season in terms of making it to Districts or State, it is used as a measurement of ability. With top runners participating from in and outside Washington, Erickson and head coach Richard Christopher said it helps them — as coaches — see what adjustments runners need to make. It also allows top runners to compete in a high-level of competition.
Thomas agreed. Because runners compete on their own at Sunfair, instead of with their team, it provides new challenges, he said. “[The Sunfair Invite is] a great test that way,” he said. “In past years, it’s been really outstanding competition.”
But, for high school runners, that competition may not be there this year.
Out of the 28 registered teams, Thomas said about half are middle schools.
Being moved to Oct. 6, the Sunfair Invite is now the same weekend as other big invites, Thomas said. Along with the middle schools and a few running clubs, Thomas said the remainder of the runners will be from smaller high schools. Larger 3A and 4A schools will mostly be absent, he said. Thomas is “90 percent” sure the invite will take place Oct. 6. But it depends on if a pressure system keeps the smoke in Yakima Valley, or the wind blows it out, he said.