Ryan Clarke is first PTHS Redhawk state champion

By Patrick J. Sullivan of the Leader
Posted 11/11/14

Ryan Clarke posted the fastest 5 kilometer time ever for a Port Townsend High School cross country runner at state, with a finishing kick that led to a state Class 1A championship.

Clarke, a …

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Ryan Clarke is first PTHS Redhawk state champion

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Ryan Clarke posted the fastest 5 kilometer time ever for a Port Townsend High School cross country runner at state, with a finishing kick that led to a state Class 1A championship.

Clarke, a senior, won the race Nov. 8 in 15:37.40, followed by the top two finishers from 2014, senior Graham Peet of Northwest in 15:41.55, and Andrew Ayers of King’s in 15:42.56.

This is Clarke’s third trip to the state cross-country meet at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco. The two-time defending Olympic League champion, and 2014 West Central 1A District champ, placed fifth at state last year as a junior.

"Ryan has been an incredibly committed athlete," and a student-athlete who leads by example, said first-year head coach Alice Fraser. "He has a quiet confidence that inspires others. Last year's rookies saw him not as a superstar, but as a hard worker. His efforts inspired them to do the same. The result of this was the team going from near last in the district to district champs and state qualification. Perhaps this will inspire more PT students to try the sport."

Medical Lake won the boys’ team title with 53 points followed by King’s with 80. The PT boys placed 8th overall with 207 points.

PT’s sophomore Brennan LaBrie was 34th (17:13.26), senior Mark Streett was 88th (18:13.70), senior Sean Dwyer was 90th (18:16.52), sophomore Alejandro Montanez was 98th (18:25.91), sophomore Jack Kingsley was 108th (18:37.10) and sophomore River Yearian was 117th (18:50.58). There were 142 total finishers.

For the PTHS girls, senior Hannah Trailer finished 95th overall (22:25.70) in the field of 138 competitors. Lakeside won the girls’ team title, and junior Alexis Redfield of Zillah won the individual crown (18:42.80).

FINISHING KICK

Clarke won state with a strong finish. At the 4k mark, Clarke was in sixth place and trailing the lead pack by 10 meters, coach Fraser reported.

"With just over half of a mile to go, he regrouped and made an assertive move to the front of the lead pack. Only defending champion Graham Peet was able to respond to Ryan’s move, and the pack quickly strung out behind as Ryan and Graham battled stride for stride over the next quarter mile. Summiting the final hill Ryan found another gear to which Graham could not respond, and pulled away for a 5-second victory."

In recent PTHS cross-country state history, Quinton Decker won in 2008 with Bereket Piatt second. In 2009, Piatt won state with Habtamu Rubio second. In 2010, Rubio was third and Piatt was fifth.

Clarke's time this year of 15:37 surpasses Rubio's 2010 time of 15:50 as the fastest ever recorded by a PTHS athlete on the 5k state course, Fraser confirmed. She noted that a misplaced turn on the state course in 2005-2007 resulted in the course running 15-20 seconds slow those years.

Fraser said that Clarke is "naturally inclined towards running" and put in the requisite miles of training. "Ryan's state victory is the end product of cumulative years of intelligent training," Fraser said. "It is very gratifying to see six years of steady progress, from a mid-pack 7th grader to his first state qualification sophomore year to his first cross country race win junior year and now his state championship win."

Coach Fraser said she was "extremely pleased to see the increased commitment displayed by the team pay off in tangible improvement." Kingsley was the only addition to the Redhawk squad that placed 16th in last year’s district championship. "From top to bottom, the varsity Redhawks have averaged nearly a minute and a half improvement per person over last year’s bests," she noted.

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