ILWACO — The Ilwaco girls’ cross-country team returns all seven State competitors and brings in promising newcomers. The boys’ team adds an extremely talented runner, Daniel Quintana, and brings back established senior stars Daniel Whiting and Tristan Trudell.

The top Ilwaco spot in the standings at cross-country races has for years seesawed between Trudell and Whiting. In long-distance track races, a similar pattern held, as the two got their 1600-meter times below 5:00, then below 4:50. During last year’s track season, as a freshman, Quintana kept getting faster, taking fourth at State with a 4:31.3 mark.

In seventh grade, Quintana began training just before the Pacific League Middle School cross-country championship, the only race he entered that year, and took first place. The next season, as an eighth-grader, he participated in the high-school Nike Ultimook race in the 3000-meter novice division. He took third among 76 runners; Whiting, also running in novice because he didn’t have enough preseason practices for the 5k varsity race, was ahead of him in second.

“In eighth grade I realized running was my sport, that I should focus on,” Quintana said. Quintana did take a year off from cross-country to play football last fall. “My buddy, Jeb Sheldon, was graduating, and I wanted to play a sport with him before he graduated,” he said.

In high school cross country, Quintana will have to endure longer distances than in middle school, or in high school track.

“I feel pretty good,” he said. “I ran a 5k (race) in California at the beginning of August.”

“I’ve been really impressed,” Trudell said of Quintana. “He’s lightning quick and he trains real hard. I’m glad I can run with him.”

Last year, Whiting took 17th at State, Trudell 25th.

Alex Carper led Ilwaco’s girls’ team with a 33rd-place mark at State. Carli Kemmer, 46th at State last year, has at least as high a ceiling as Carper; she was 33rd at State as a freshman in 2017, and last year placed second at the home Black Lake race and had fifth-place finishes at Black Hills in Centralia and at the Warrenton Wreck Race. Emma Brundage was last year’s promising freshman, gradually narrowing the gap with Ilwaco’s top runners until she was second on the team at the Oct. 6 South Sound Invite. Brundage placed 72nd at State.

Estella Sheldon and Kaytlenn Whelden, like Kemmer, were both in the top 40 at State in 2017 before lower finishes last year.

“I think I’m going to get faster this year,” Sheldon said. “I had a bumpy road last year, had some problems with my knees… I felt so much better on my first day of practice this year, and every day this season I’ve felt better than last year.”

If some veterans reach their career best marks, and Brundage improves a bit, that could give Ilwaco five top-40 runners this season.

With Nisa Mendoza and Daniela Mendez also returning, Ilwaco’s girls bring back their whole varsity team that ran at State last year. Tazlina Thomas, who had an impressive freshman track season as a sprinter (14.01 seconds in the 100) and ran cross-country in middle school, joins cross-country as a sophomore.

On the boys’ team, supplementing the three stars are senior Colton McNabb and sophomores Logan Simonson and Brady Rasmussen. McNabb took 13th of 64 runners at the Warrenton Wreck last year, and ninth of 78 at the Bigfoot Invitational at Rockaway Beach. Simonson was just nine seconds behind McNabb at State in his freshman season. If all three make varsity again, that leaves one open spot.

Griffen Cutting, who placed eighth at the home meet last season, is among those in the running. Freshman Ayden Woodby is another candidate. He took second in the middle school Black Lake race last season and won four 400-meter races at track meets, then placed at the TrackTown youth league meets at Warrenton and Eugene in the summer.

Aaron Mead is a sports writer for the Chinook Observer. Contact him at 360-642-8181 or aaroncmead@gmail.com.

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