Girls state cross country: King’s Naomi Smith stays out front this time, wins state title

Originally published November 3, 2018 at 8:17 pm  | Seattle Times

King’s Naomi Smith runs toward the finish line during the girls Class 1A state cross-country championships Saturday at Willows Golf Course in Pasco. (Evan Abell / Yakima Herald-Repubic)

The junior took over the lead in the second mile and led King's to a second-place finish in the team race.

By  Jeff Morrow  Special to The Seattle Times

PASCO — Naomi Smith of King’s decided to try a different strategy this year at the Class 1A state cross-country meet at Sun Willows Golf Course.

State cross country

“I wanted to get out near the front this year,” Smith, a junior, said. “The plan was not to get too far behind. Last year, I tried to wait to make a move, and it didn’t work.”

She finished seventh as a sophomore in 2017.

“This year I was thinking ‘I should get up there,’ ” Smith said.

Smith stayed up there too, slowly pulling away to win the race in 18 minutes, 16.70 seconds. She trailed Colville’s Alaina Stone by a split second after the first mile.

By the second mile, Smith had a good four-second lead over Stone, and she never looked back. Well, that’s a lie.

“I know I shouldn’t do that, but I kept looking back where everyone was,” Smith admitted. “All of the time. When I turned corners, I’d look back.”

Didn’t matter.

No one could catch her. And she knew them all.

“I love racing them,” she said. “I’ve run against Andrea (Markezich, fifth) and Olivia (Merkezich of Bear Creek, third) for a while. (Northwest’s) Macenna Hansen (ninth), and I have been competing with each other for a long time.”

Colville’s Stone finished second.

Smith couldn’t get King’s, which was ranked first in the state coaches poll heading into the meet, a team title. Lakeside of Nine Miles Falls near Spokane won the team title with 108 points, while King’s was second with 114.


By David R Pan | Nov 01, 2018  Edmonds Beacon

King’s Naomi Smith has won the North Sound Conference and 1A District girls cross country titles. 

King’s Naomi Smith is on a roll.


The junior standout followed up her victory in the North Sound meet with a first place finish in the 1A District girls cross country championships Saturday, Oct. 27, at South Whidbey High School.


Smith finished in 18 minutes, 16.05 seconds, well ahead of Bear Creek’s Andrea Markezich, who was second in 18:29.14. Smith also helped lead the Knights to the team title with 66 points. Northwest placed second with 82.


The 2018 season is going better than she could have imagined. Coming into her junior year, Smith’s goal was to break 18 minutes. She accomplished that goal easily in October at the Hole in the Wall Invitational. Smith finished in 17:27.9, a personal best time.


“To do that was really shocking,” she said. “From a team aspect, I did not expect us to be as good as we have been and everyone on the team has really stepped it up and surpassed any expectations that I or anyone had.”


A strong offseason has prepared Smith well for only her second season of running cross country. Smith played volleyball her freshman year at King’s.


“She was really good last year,” King’s coach Rod Wilcox said. “But she’s improved over a minute this year and for an elite person to do that is unheard of. … And it’s due to her offseason preparation. She’s very dedicated and she takes care of herself.”


When she was playing volleyball, Smith said that she thought about running. When the volleyball season was over, she joined the cross country team for a few practices.


“I was really missing it. That was where my heart was the whole time,” Smith said. “(Practice) was a lot of fun. I kind of wanted to be here.”


Smith and Wilcox tried different race strategies during her sophomore season. Much of her success this season is because Smith embraced the idea of getting out front and staying there.


“She’s a very determined front runner,” Wilcox said. “She’s not a kick person. She’s more of a take it to them, go for the lead and if someone else is going to lead, they’re going to have to earn it.”


Smith said that if she settles into a pace, she can generally keep it up.


“I’ve kind of found it’s better for me to really push that pace from the beginning because I know I’ll be able to stick on it and maybe break some of those girls that are trying to go easy until that final kick,” Smith said. “That just tends to work better for me. I think we found that through trial and error.”


The state cross country championships are Saturday, Nov. 3, at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.

2018 1st Team All-Cascade

Isaac Cortes - Granite Falls

Callahan Yale - South Whidbey

Michael Cepowski - South Whidbey

Nick LeBar - King's

Anthony Hart - King's

Thomas Simms - South Whidbey

Trent Mortensen - Cedar Park Chr



2018 2nd Team All-Cascade

Pierce Papke - King's

Hiroto Nasu - King's

Hadley Putnam - Cedar Park Christian

Aidan Donnelly - South Whidbey

Cooper Ullmann - South Whidbey

Eli Waldron - South Whidbey

Reilly McVay - South Whidbey



2018 1st Team All-Cascade

Naomi Smith - King's

Kaia Swegler Richmond - South Whidbey

Analia Johnson - Cedar Park Christian

Elizabeth Bassett - Granite Falls

Greta Gunning - King's

Campbell Baker - King's

Jenae McInnes - King's



2018 2ndTeam All-Cascade

Alexandra Christophilis - King's

Flannery Friedman - South Whidbey

Grace Huffman - South Whidbey

Natalie Rodriguez - South Whidbey

Allie Fattizzi - King's

Grace Hutcheson - King's

Laila Gmerek - South Whidbey



After dethroning the number one team at bi districts, the girls team is now ranked number one themselves.

Led by seniors Greta Gunning and Alexandra Christophilis, the Lady Knights ran strong races in the adversity of South Whidbey's course.

Junior Naomi Smith not only ran away with the individual title but broke the bi district course record. Naomi is currently ranked #1 in the 1A standings and is the favorite at State.

The races will be at Sun Willow Golf Course in Pasco on Saturday the 3rd.

Go Knights

Article by Keenan Gray - The Runner

Langley, WA - No. 5 King's High School girls cross country team took down the No. 1 team in the 1A ranks, The Northwest School, yesterday at South Whidbey High School at the District One and Two 1A Championships.

This win for the program feels great right now says head coach Rod Wilcox, and will be a big momentum build for the team.

"I was so excited about how well the girls ran," said Wilcox. "But beating Northwest or not doesn't matter this week. Next week matters so much more, but for those girls to get that title is huge."

Junior Naomi Smith won her eighth race of this season and her first ever district individual championship running 18:16.1 to lead the Knights to a first place team finish.

For Smith to do well and win, she knew she had to separate herself from the other girls in the race because she said her kick isn't her strength.

King's Naomi Smith coming up to the first mile in the District One 1A Championship Meet at South Whidbey High School (Keenan Gray/The Runner)

"The goal was to get out quick so I could break away from the other runners," said Smith. "I wanted to be alone by the time I hit the track the last time and it actually worked better than expected. Just having that mindset at the beginning of the race really helped me out."

In only her second year of cross country, previously a volleyball player, Smith has become one of the most notable names in the 1A classification in the state of Washington.

Wilcox says the leadership Smith brings to the team is why the girls are having so much success right now.

"She is a joy to work with. Beyond the fact that she is really good, she's a good team leader and positive role model to the other girls."

Also finishing in the top 10 from King's was Greta Gunning placing tenth overall running 20:31.45.

The Knights are enjoying being districts champions as of now, but its only a matter of time before the state meet is here. Wilcox knows this was a great learning experience for his team.

"The girls learned a lot about themselves after this race and now they can take that confidence and go out next week and roll. This was the nervous one, and next week's will be fun."

A total of 42 individuals and six teams qualified for the state meet in Pasco next week.

Joining Smith in the top 10, King's Greta Gunning finished tenth running 20:31.45.

Finishing second and third from Bear Creek was Andrea and Olivia Markezich and they ran 18:29.14 and 18:50.62.

Macenna Hanson from The Northwest School was her team's top runner placing forth overall running a time of 19:43.30. Northwest placed second as team scoring 82 points.

South Whidbey's Kaia Swegler Richmond finished 5th and her time was 19:53.75. The Falcons did qualify as a team placing fifth with 160 points.

Ela Nickels and Lolo Dederer finished seventh and eighth for The Bush School running 20:13.91 and 20:16.06 and the Blazers finished in third as a team scoring 133 points.

Meridian placed 4th as a team with 144 points and Kayla Aalpoel led the Trojans with her sixth place finish and time of 19:56.81.

Granite Falls' own Elizabeth Bassett was the Tigers only runner in the top 10 and to qualify for the state meet. She placed ninth overall with a time of 20:22.71.

The 1A State Championship meet will take place in Pasco, Washington at Sun Willows Golf Course Saturday, Nov. 3. The girls race will begin at 10:30 a.m..

Qualified Teams (including the runners)

Kings - Naomi Smith, Greta Gunning, Campbell Baker, Alexandra Christophilis, Jenae McInnes, Allie Fattizzi, Grace Hutchenson

The Northwest School - Macenna Hanson, Sasha Balaski, Haylie Bleakley-Harris, Lanie Rettig, Grace Patterson, Charlotte Howell, Maleda Sims

The Bush School - Ela Nickels, Lolo Dederer, Liya Micksovsky, Dylan Cundiff, Dalia Cape, Sabine Blumenthal

Meridian - Kayla Aalpoel, Kendyl Otter, Makenna Holz, Rubi Stuit, Cristian Esquivel, Kady Amot, Emma Forbes

South Whidbey - Kaia Swegler Richmond, Natalie Rodriguez, Flannery Friedman, Grace Huffman, Laila Gmerek, Grace Complita, Mary Moss

The Overlake School - Anya Sharma, Sophie Sharp, Annika Mihata, Liv Sather, Raini Bozarth, Jessica Colleran, Radha Iyer

2003 was the last time that King's Cross Country won a Conferenct Title. In that time, King's XC has won 14 District Titles but no Conference Titles since 2003.

Led by the individual Conference Champion, Naomi Smith; the Lady Knights placed 7 girls in the top 13 to easily out score South Whidbey. The Lady Knights are now ranked 3rd in 1A State. Naomi is currently ranked #1 in 1A State and #2 in Washington.

1st - Naomi Smith (repeat champion), 5th - Greta Gunning, 6th - Campbell Baker, 7th - Jenae McInnes, 8th - Alexandra Christophilis, 12th - Allie Fattizzi, 13th - Grace Hutcheson

The boys cross country team finished a close 2nd to the 2nd ranked team in 1A state, South Whidbey. With major personal records on the day, the Knights have moved into the 4th ranked spot in state themselves.

The Knights were led by freshman Nick LeBar's 25 second personal record placing 4th. Nick's time ranks him #14 in 1A State.

4th - Nick LeBar, 5th - Anthony Hart, 8th - Pierce Papke, 9th - Hiroto Nasu, 20th - Jason Labusky, 21st - Lucan Needham, 23rd - Mason Bloeser, 24th - Josh Vasquez

 Both Teams Ranked 5th and Naomi Smith Ranked 1st in State.


Rank Boys 1A                       Rank Girls 1A
1Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls       1Northwest
2Meridian                             2Lakeside-Nine Mile Falls
3Klahowya                           3La Center
4Omak                                4Deer Park
5Kings                                 5Kings
6South Whidbey                   6Klahowya
7Medical Lake                      7Meridian
8Overlake                            8Medical lake
9Medical Lake                      9Chelan
10Northwest                      10Charles Wright Academy
Others                                 Others
Charles Wright Academy       Bush, Cashmere & Seton Catholic

Bush & Riverside

12th KING’S CROSS INVITE, September 22nd
15 teams raced over one of the toughest 3 mile courses in Washington to test their early season determination.
The individual champions were Cameron Neilsen from Northwest Christian of Lacey and Naomi Smith of King’s. Neilsen won with a time of 16:44 and Smith broke the course record with a time of 18:01. Naomi Smith is now ranked 6th in the state of Washington over all classifications.
Neilsen and Smith both led their teams to the team titles as Northwest Christian of Lacey won the boys team title for the second year in a row and King’s High School girls team won for the first time since 2013.
This Saturday the 29th, King’s cross country team will travel to Marysville for the Twilight Invitational agains 65 of the best teams from Washington, Oregon, Idaho and Canada.

For the first time in school history, the girls cross country team won the South Whidbey Invite.

Racing against 21 schools from the 1A and 2A divisions, the girls team won by 3 points over 2A Bellingham.

The girls captains are Greta Gunning and Alexandra Christophilis.

Leading the girls was Naomi Smith winning the meet with a new 5K Course Record of 18:24.

Naomi is now ranked 2nd in the state of Washington over all divisions.

2017 Cascade Conference Cross Country All Conference Team
Naomi Smith KING'S 10
Elsie Dombek Cedarcrest 10
Kaia Swegler Rich. South Whidbey 9
Allison Perrow KING’S 12
Kelly Hall Cedarcrest 12
Megan Dorney A.T.M. 12
Alicia Krivanek Cedarcrest 12
Kate Vergillo Cedarcrest 11
Jenae McInnes KING’S 10
Gretta Gunning KING'S 11
MaryCate Babcock Cedarcrest 12
Alexandra Kurtz South Whidbey 11
Clara Wiederholt A.T.M. 10
Aryia Farnworth Cedarcrest 9
Girls Coach of the Year:
Bruce McDowell - Cedarcrest

Josh Rauvola ATM 12
Grant VanValkenburg Cedarcrest 12
Ben Benson Cedarcrest 11
Cameron Chew KING’S 12
Isaac Cortes Granite Falls 10
Emmett Klaiber Cedarcrest 12
Aiden Holm Granite Falls 12
Callahan Yale South Whidbey 11
Colby Crispeno KING’S 10
Bryce Hefner Cedarcrest 11
Anthony Hart KING’S 11
Ryan LaTurner Cedarcrest 11
Justin Young Cedarcrest 12
Brady Shaw Cedarcrest 10
Boys Coach of the Year:
Bruce McDowell - Cedarcrest