Leaders of the pack | Eastlake duo set to pace Wolves on run to state podium

The Wolves look like one of the state's top contenders in cross country with senior Kyle Suver and sophomore Nathan Pixler leading the way.

When the Eastlake boys cross country team gathered to run mile time trials at the beginning of the season, head coach Troy Anderson wasn’t quite sure what to expect.

He knew the momentum from reaching the 4A cross country meet for only the second time in school history last year had paid dividends during the track season and summer, when he said Eastlake had its largest turnouts during his tenure. But even with a deep and experienced group of runners returning, there were question marks.

As the times came in, the worries faded away.

“Last year, our top guy in the mile ran four minutes, 51 seconds, a pretty solid time,” Anderson said. “This year, we had ten guys run faster than that.”

Anderson knew from the start he had a group of returning runners capable of reaching the podium at state this season, led by senior Kyle Suver and sophomore Nathan Pixler.

But he also knew to reach its goals, his team would have to continue to shave time, develop depth and race against top competition even before the postseason began. The Wolves got that chance recently at the Tracy Walters Invitational in Spokane, where top squads from around the Pacific Northwest converged to begin the season.

“To be frank, we kind of got trounced,” Anderson said. “But we went there for the process and the experience.”

The results weren’t all bad for the Wolves, as a pair of state qualifiers from last year finished in the top-30 with sophomore Nathan Pixler 23rd and senior Kyle Suver 29th. Considering the race included runners from all classifications throughout the entire region, including a pair of national qualifiers from 2012, Anderson said it was a more loaded field than state.Both Suver and Pixler said after the experience of 2012, the first state meet for each, they are significantly more confident than last season.

“I’m definitely a lot better, just from being able to train with a lot of great guys,” Pixler said. “They have been able to push me and let me know what my limits are.”

Anderson said much of last year’s success can be traced to a three-way meet in Seattle against KingCo foes Skyline and Ballard. The Wolves had never beaten Skyline in a meet in the short history of the two, but with a specific race strategy, they were able to come out in front.

“It really went from a desire to a realization,” Anderson said of his team’s belief. “That confidence refocused the guys that much more.”

Four of Eastlake’s state contingent return this year, as Caleb Olson joins Suver and Pixler. Anderson said quality depth has been the most encouraging factor thus far, with a number of athletes set to compete for top spots in the conference and district and a shot at state.

Shane Cornfield, Cade Faulkner and Jack Lauzon each finished in the top-50 at Tracy Walters and will be part of the group looking to ill the void.

“The season starts in August,” Anderson said. But the teams that do well and want to succeed train well in June, July and August and that is what they did.”

And of course, he knows he can rely on the top end of the squad to provide leadership as well as blistering times.

“Kyle is super-focused not just on himself, but on the team,” Anderson said. “He is looking at running sub-16 this year and is definitely primed to do that.”

Pixler said he hopes to cut some 20 seconds off his personal record time throughout the year and with only 12 of the state’s top-25 finishers back this season, the Wolves could be primed for a move onto the podium.

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