Issaquah junior Julia David-Smith finished first with a time of 17:26.20 in the girls race at the 4A state cross-country championships on Nov. 9 in Pasco. Sophomore Darwin Hanson placed 49th in the girls race (19:22, a new personal record) and freshman Liam Heninger placed 46th in the boys race (16:12, a new personal record) to cap off a successful meet for the Eagles.
David-Smith finished second at the state meet last year, but this year it wasn’t close, finishing almost one minute ahead of the second-place runner. After being disappointed with her finish last year, David-Smith said she went into the state meet this year prepared.
“This year, I came into it a lot more mentally ready for the race,” David-Smith said. “Throughout the week prior, I made sure I slept well, got enough rest and ate well. I just did everything I had to do to be ready and I went in with the right mindset.”
Going into the race on Sun Willows Golf Course, David-Smith wanted to start fast and get ahead, which is exactly what she did, running the first mile in 5:24.2 and separating herself from the other runners.
“I just kept going,” David-Smith said. “I felt good the whole way. I just got into my mode and kept increasing the gap.”
Even though she’s spent the season running by herself at the front of the pack, Issaquah head coach Gwen Roberson said that doesn’t slow David-Smith down.
“There’s been very few kids, and we’ve had some good kids come through, who have understood how to really push themselves the whole way,” Robertson said. “I think (David-Smith) is really good at that, even when there’s nobody with her, she can still keep running hard. That’s not typical of young kids, a lot of them have to learn how to do that.”
David-Smith wasn’t the only Issaquah runner who improved their time from last year’s state meet. Hanson shaved almost one minute off her time of 20:21.7 from the state meet last year. Robertson said both Hanson and David-Smith benefited from their previous experience in the state meet.
“They knew what the course was going to run like and I think they were prepared for that, so it certainly helps,” Robertson said. “Also knowing that when you’re in a field of 160 kids, if you’re in 75th-100th place at the first mile, you’re actually in a pretty good position, you don’t panic and say, ‘Oh no, I’m too far back,’ Because you can still work your way through and end up where you want.”
Both Hanson and Heninger had to work their way through the field during their races. After the first mile, Hanson was in 81st, and Heninger was in 88th.
“I think both Heninger and Hanson wanted to be in the top 50, that was their goal, and they both did what they needed to do to be where the end result was,” Robertson said. “When you run a PR at a championship, it’s always extra special. It doesn’t always happen.”
In his first year with the team, Heninger was the only member of the boys team to qualify for the state meet. Robertson said she has been impressed with his maturity as a runner.
“(Heninger) just kind of knows what to do,” Robertson said. “He’s a very good competitor, it’s how he’s run the entire season.”
While running is hard, Robertson said the three runners proved that you can have fun and still race well.
“They had a lot of fun,” Robertson said. “They made gingerbread houses the night before in their hotel room. It didn’t last very long because architecturally, it wasn’t very sound. They had a lot of fun doing that, and that’s what I like to see. Running is hard, but it can also be a lot of fun.”
David-Smith said it was nice to have teammates with her the night before the meet so they could distract themselves and just have fun.
“Just keeping our minds off the race, it was relaxing,” David-Smith said. “The whole night was really fun.”
David-Smith will compete at the NXR Northwest Regional Championships on Nov. 16 in Boise, Idaho. Robertson said there will be tougher competition for her to race against.
“I’ll think she’ll give it a good shot and we’ll see where she comes out in that good field,” Robertson said. “She likes racing people. She’ll have that chance next week.”
With lots of talented runners awaiting at regionals, David-Smith said she is excited for the competition.
“I tend to kind of fall asleep in races,” David-Smith said. “No one is really around. It’s a lot different when I’m in a group of girls during a race. Sometimes it’s kind of intimidating, but it’s a lot more fun. I get to compete and challenge myself.”