Given Paul Graddon's past superiority, any improvement on his part this fall would be cause for apprehension among Seamount League cross-country runners and coaches. Scarier still would be a considerable step up on the part of Kennedy's other male runners.
Seamount runners and coaches, prepare to meet your worst nightmare.
"In the past he's been a baby-looking kid, but not anymore," Kennedy Coach Paul Muckerheide said of Graddon, a senior who recently made a recruiting trip to Notre Dame. "He looks 18 now, and he's stronger, more mature. I hope that means faster."
More of the same is expected in Seamount cross country in 1991. The boys should chase Graddon all the way the state meet Nov. 9 in Pasco. The girls should do the same with Mount Rainier's Angie Fortner.
Graddon was the league's top boy at the Class AA state meet last year, finishing 10th overall. In 1989, he finished 19th and was the No. 2 finisher from the Seamount League.
As a freshman, Fortner established herself as the runner to beat at the beginning of last season and carried it through to the state meet, placing ninth, No. 1 among Seamount runners. Unless another girl emerges this fall, Fortner should have the league's other runners in tow again in 1991.
It's a good bet that most of the league's boys are accustomed to looking at Graddon's back as it disappears around the next bend in the trail.
"Bruce Pleasants has been chasing him for four years," Lindbergh Coach Ken Storkson said of his senior team captain. "He just doesn't have the footspeed that Graddon does.
"When he puts the hammer down, we just don't seem to be able to go the last mile with him."
Last season, however, the Kennedy story was Graddon and The Gap. In practice, nothing but air filled the gap between Graddon and Kennedy's other runners. In meets, runners from other schools would occupy the space behind No. 1.
Lindbergh, led by Pleasants and Dave Leadbetter, who return this season, took spots Nos. 2 through 5 to win the league meet. Mount Rainier, led by a strong sophomore class, finished second. Kennedy placed third.
Those three teams should vie for the league title again - in both the boys' and girls' competition.
Muckerheide, though, said the Lancer boys appear ready to close the gap behind Graddon.
During a 2-mile morning time trial last week, for instance, Graddon improved improved his time nine seconds over the same time trial early last season. Kennedy's next three runners improved by a combined 90 seconds.
"We had three kids close to Paul. That never happened last year," Muckerheide said.
"We got slaughtered last year by teams like Lindbergh. Paul would win, but they'd have the next five guys. Mount Rainier did the same thing to us. This year, it'll be a lot harder for teams to do that to us.
"I think we've moved up to where we are close to Mount Rainier and Lindbergh, and that might make Paul the deciding factor. We've closed the gap, but whether we've gotten up to where we can go past them, that remains to be seen."
One thing's certain: Lindbergh hasn't slipped much, if at all. In addition to Pleasants and Leadbetter, state-meet returnees Barry Tomich and Cory Alberts give the Eagles a solid nucleus.
"We have five guys we think could be No. 1," Storkson said.
Among the girls, Fortner placed second (behind Lakeside's Susanna Matsen) at the Sea-King District meet last year. Highline's Jenny Campbell was fourth, Jenny Farrell of Kennedy was sixth and Lindbergh's Trisha Peterson was seventh. All are back in '91.
Kennedy, which won the Seamount title last year, and Lindbergh, which placed second, should be among the contenders again. Mount Rainier also is expected to battle for the top spot.
SEAMOUNT LEAGUE CROSS-COUNTRY CAPSULES
EVERGREEN -- HEAD COACH - Dick Toulouse. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: 10th in league meet. Girls: Did not field a team. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Jim Reiner, soph. Girls: Ann Ho, jr. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: Toulouse found out he'd been chosen to coach only two weeks ago, and two boys showed up at the first practice. If he can recruit enough runners to assemble a five-man team, the season will have been a success. Girls: With only one runner turning out, calling this a rebuilding year is a substantial understatement.
HAZEN -- HEAD COACH - Bo Kurle. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Fifth in league meet. Girls: Sixth in league meet. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Ryan Ackley, sr.; Scott Gerdts, sr.; Brian Van Houten, jr.; Todd Yount, soph. Girls: Jennie Thompson, jr.; Alexis Hightower, sr.; Heather Gallemore, sr. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Scott Armstrong, soph. Girls: Kaaren Kalberg, jr.; Wendy Jones, soph. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: Lost three of top runners to graduation. "Potentially, Van Houten, Gerdts and Ackley could be of that quality, but I'd like to see a little more before comparing them to those three," Kurle said. Girls: Lots of question marks, but with Thompson healthy after suffering stress fracture last year, could push Mount Rainier, Kennedy and Lindbergh.
HIGHLINE -- HEAD COACH - Jack Pyle. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Sixth in league meet. Girls: Third in league meet, 16th in state. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Trevor Rasmussen, soph.; Lyon DesPres, sr.; Josh Zuray, sr.; Sal Occhino, sr. Girls: Jenny Campbell, sr. (4th in district, 14th in state last year); Stephanie Larson, sr.; Erin Eads, jr.; Jill Munnoch, sr. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Brian Burris, soph. Girls: Laura Oneschak, fr.; Jennifer Lackey, sr. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: "We're shooting for the middle of the pack," Pyle said. Girls: "We're definitely not going to be as strong as last year. It's going to be a case of Jenny being out there by herself and we'll see if we can bring some other girls along."
KENNEDY -- HEAD COACH - Paul Muckerheide. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Third in league meet. Girls: First in league meet, 13th in state. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Paul Graddon, sr. (third at district, 10th at state); Brian French, sr. Girls: Jenny Farrell, sr. (sixth at district); Shannon Fath, sr.; Donna Conner, sr. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Tom Farrell, jr.; Kevin Walker, fr.; Matt Purcell, soph. Girls: Audrey Muscarnera, jr.; Erin Gauthier, soph. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: "I think we've moved up to where we're close to Lindbergh and Mount Rainier, but whether we can go past them remains to be seen," Muckerheide said. Girls: Should battle Mount Rainier and Lindbergh for top spot.
LIBERTY -- HEAD COACH - Pat Ford. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Eighth in league meet. Girls: Didn't have enough runners to score in league meet. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Jason Young, sr.; Josh Saylor, jr.; Derek Rowe, soph.; Greg Hodges, soph. Girls: Jenny Robson, jr. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Oscar Myre, jr.; Adam Taylor, fr., Jason Decker, sr. Girls: Danni Vargas, soph.; JoAnne Gruenes, soph. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: "We were third (from the bottom) last year; I'm hoping for fourth or fifth," Ford said. "It looks like we're improved. I expect Jason Young to go to state as an individual." Girls: With only three girls turning out at the moment, expectations are modest.
LINDBERGH -- HEAD COACH - Ken Storkson. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: First in league meet, seventh in state. Girls: Second in league meet, 15th in state. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Bruce Pleasants, sr. (eighth in district, 28th in state); Dave Leadbetter, sr. (sixth in district); Barry Tomich, soph.; Cory Alberts, sr.; Eric Dahlberg, soph. Girls: Trisha Peterson, jr. (seventh in district, 25th in state); Carrie Gagnier, jr.; Michelle Clifton, sr.; Katie Clifton, sr. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Nate Gregory, jr. Girls: Rattu Jawhal, sr.; Heidi Swift, fr. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: Lost captain Brad Erickson to graduation. "Pleasants has taken over as our captain, and we're hopeful we can continue that kind of comraderie . . . Hopefully they'll feed off of one another." Girls: If team shows type of character it showed last year in reaching state, should be among league's best.
MOUNT RAINIER -- HEAD COACH - Don Powelson. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Second in league meet, 11th in state. Girls: Fourth in league meet. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Andy Martin, jr.; Jeff Rice, jr.; Jerry Rice, jr.; Ryan Craig, jr. Girls: Angie Fortner, soph. (second in district, ninth in state); Erica Grove, soph.; Vicki Snekvik, soph.; April Knoth, sr.
-- OUTLOOK - Boys: Should battle for league title "if we get all of our runners out," Powelson said. Girls: Fortner is class of league, with Highline's Campbell and Kennedy's Farrell behind her. Team could challenge for league title.
MOUNT SI -- HEAD COACH - Art Galloway. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Seventh in league meet. Girls: Didn't have enough runners to score in league meet. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Isaac Gmazel, sr.; Will Winston, sr.; Nathan Erdmann, jr. Girls: Cynthia Jordan, sr. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Mike Schulz, jr.; Jeff Johnson, soph. Girls: Megan Humphrey, so.; Jessica Gessner, jr. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: Gmazel and Winston were top two Wildcat runners last season and both will contend for district berth. Gmazel has talent to reach state. Low turnout makes this a season of individual goals Mount Si. Girls: Not enough runners to score in a meet - just three at present. Galloway, however, hopes last year's top runner, Heather Barcus, will turn out soon.
RENTON -- HEAD COACH - Jim Glockner. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Fourth in league meet. Girls: Fifth in league meet. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Craig Dyer, sr.; Paul Boyet, jr.; Nick Delgado, jr.; Long Chung, sr.; Don Monson, jr.; Eddie Rogers, sr; Aaron Woodall, jr. Girls: Rupal Shah, jr.; Melissa Hamilton, Tran Truong, sr.; Karen Bals, sr. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: Good nucleus of returnees should put Indians in middle of pack or higher. Indians are aiming for above .500. Girls: Would be doing well to repeat last year's 5-4 league dual-meet record.
TYEE -- HEAD COACH - Bob Guenther. -- LAST SEASON - Boys: Ninth in league meet. Girls: Not enough runners to score in league meet. -- TOP RETURNEES - Boys: Joe Manpas, soph.; Jason Hrisko, sr.; Kacob Reeder, jr. Girls: Yvonne Gillette, soph.; Kristina Roll, soph. -- TOP NEWCOMERS - Boys: Chris Canfield, fr. -- OUTLOOK - Boys: With just eight athletes turning out, it's a rebuilding year. However, talented underclassmen Monpas and Canfield could be the building blocks of a solid future. Girls: Only two runners on the team - could be lean pickings this season.