ILWACO, Wash. - Break up the Yankees, ban the Celtics from the playoffs in the 1960s, don't let Vince Lombardi coach another Super Bowl team; and look out for Ilwaco's cross country team again.

Joe Williams is not shy about already making motel reservations for his boys and girls cross country teams for the state meet in Pasco Nov. 5.

"We have a good running program and expect success at league and district. If we don't get anyone hurt, we could send both teams to state and maybe even win district in both the boys' and girls' meets."

Ordinarily, when a team has all six of its top runners returning from a fifth-place showing and all are seniors, one could predict a state championship. With John Hayes, Jordan Williams, Dylan Wirkkala, Shaun Peterson, Scott Fagerland and Mike Huitt coming back for the Fishermen, great things are expected. A No. 1 showing will be difficult, however. Charles Wright Academy of Tacoma and Seattle Academy finished 1-2 in last year's meet, and both return their top runners.

"Our boys have won 28 consecutive league meets, six straight League titles, and three consecutive district championships," coach Williams said. "We are ranked third in pre-season, and our team goal is to get back to Pasco and do even better than fifth place."

The six seniors are led by Hayes, but Jordan Williams recorded the second-fastest mile time in the past eight years in opening-day workouts, and Wirkkala's initial mile time was fourth best. Only Ivan Bannan finished ahead of Williams, and Nate Appel ahead of Wirkkala in the storied recent history of IHS cross country. Hayes and Williams were 1-2 in district and 20-21st at state in 2004.

The boys attended a camp at White Pass and were running 60 miles a week this summer, even before practice began.

"We're going to enter some tougher invitational meets to challenge us, " coach Williams said. "Our guys are all close friends and they know the key to our success is that the back guys beat the other team's back guys and our elite runners do well at the top. We're solid."

Junior varsity boys will also be competitive and should be ready and able to move up should one of the seniors falter. Luke Jensen, Carl Jackson, Robert O'Brien and Mike Lambert all have had success in track and freshmen Stephan Berglund, Robert Givens and Kyle Huitt have dominated junior high cross country and track distance races the past two seasons.

The girls will have a full team. They have four returning lettermen and could challenge Rainier for the District IV title. Katie Freese, Meredith Jensen, Kat Oja and Monica Millner bring experience, and Bonnie Perez, new to the sport, brings a great deal of talent, according to Williams. Emily Leonard and Kelli Freese provide solid backup and could compete for a varsity spot.

"Our boys want to get back to state and prove we are better than fifth place. That's their driving force. And our girls should have a solid team and compete for the district title, also," the veteran coach added. "We're expecting good things to happen."

Williams is assisted by Sarah Taylor and Michael Anderson.


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