Highline High School started the Seamount League girls' cross country season in a hole, but Coach Jack Pyle thinks the Pirates can bury the rest of their competition.
If they do, they can salvage at least a share of the Seamount dual-meet title. Then Highline can hope to leave everyone in the dust at the league meet.
Currently, unbeaten Kennedy and Mount Rainier are at the top of the hill. The Lancers survived a major test last Friday, handing Lindbergh its first loss of the season, 26-29, to improve its Seamount record to 5-0. Mount Rainier picked up a pair of forfeits from Liberty (incomplete team) and Evergreen (no team) to move to 4-0. Lindbergh is 4-1 and Highline 3-1. The Pirates lost to Lindbergh by a point in the first meet of the season.
Mount Rainier, which shared last year's dual-meet crown with Renton at 8-1, gets its first big test Friday against Lindbergh at Mount Si (1-4). Then comes the grand finale that could decide it all - Highline, Kennedy and Hazen (3-2) at Mount Rainier Friday, Oct. 12.
``That should be a good one,'' Pyle said.
One Highline should sweep, in his eyes.
``Kennedy and Mount Rainier should be tough, but I think we can win,'' Pyle said. ``We should have beaten Lindbergh.''
But with senior Connie Schachtel out of the lineup with a sprained ankle, the Pirates came up a point short against Lindbergh. Schachtel runs anywhere from No. 2 to No. 4 for the Pirates, who are led by junior Jenny Campbell. Seniors Dena Boyd and Emily Johnson join Schachtel in a close group behind Campbell.
``I think the girls have an excellent shot at going to state, if we remain healthy,'' Pyle said.
Campbell, who played soccer in the fall of her freshman and sophomore years, has given Highline a big boost. She has qualified for state in the 1,600 and 3,200 the past two track seasons. No one in the Seamount League has beaten her in cross country yet, and Pyle doesn't expect anyone to.
``There's probably only one girl in the league who can challenge her, and that's (Angie) Fortner from Mount Rainier,'' Pyle said. ``But they ran against each other before the season started (in the Seamount Relays) and Jenny beat her without too much trouble.''
Fortner, daughter of Evergreen football coach Jim Fortner, is a freshman.
``They're all pretty green,'' said Coach Don Powelson, who picked his Mount Rainier team to finish ``somewhere in the middle'' of the league. ``They're just learning.''
Senior Connie Englert runs in the No. 2 spot, but newcomer April Knoth, a junior, and freshman Erica Grove step in from there. Senior Julie McCarty is also in the pack.
Improved junior Jenny Farrell leads Kennedy. Seniors Kathleen Sullivan and Jenni McCann are going 2-3 for the Lancers, with junior Donna Conner fourth.
``After that, we've got a pretty big drop,'' Coach Paul Muckerheide said.
Lindbergh lost three of its top five runners from last year's team, which had to settle for third place in the dual-meet standings after a slow start but came on to win the league meet. Coach Ken Storkson has been able to fill in nicely.
``If nobody gets hurt, we might be better than last year,'' he said. ``The key is how much we improve.''
The Eagles are young with just one senior in the top five, Liza Ruesch, who is beginning to run well. Sophomores Trisha Peterson and Carrie Gagnier were going 1-2 early on, with juniors Kristina Byrd and Michelle Clifton completing the top five.
Hazen has been led by Jennie Thompson, Christiane Schafer and Kimmi Kono.
Liberty lacks numbers, but has another of the league's top-level runners in senior Deanna Armstrong, a two-time state qualifier.