MAPLE VALLEY — It’s all about maintaining a standard.
Each fall the Tahoma High School boys and girls cross country teams draw on the program’s past. Success from previous year keeps the current group accountable. It’s about embracing the grind as one of the state’s top cross-country programs.
“Those past teams motivate me to do better,” said Ethan Martin, the boys’ No. 1 runner this fall. “Being a senior, I have to be a leader and encourage this team. I know I definitely want to finish higher this year.”
Martin is one of the cogs keeping the Tahoma boys team at a high level and headed to state for the 10th consecutive season and 25th in school history. The Bears’ boys squad looks to repeat as Class 4A state champions Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco.
Martin, who was 10th at state in 15 minutes, 41.20 seconds over five kilometers last year, is a prime example of the sacrifice it takes to succeed in distance running.
“I missed state for track season last spring because of a stress fracture in my leg,” said Martin, who has the sixth-fastest time among Class 4A runners (15:25.9). “That carried into the summer and then right after that, I suffered a partial tear of my calf.”
That meant in order for Martin to get ready for this fall, he faced a regimen of workouts, riding a stationary bike and swimming.
“It was hard to keep up with everyone, but I knew I had to do twice as much to keep up with everyone,” Martin said. “I feel a lot stronger this year even with the injuries. Endurance-wise it might have been harder to catch up, because nothing can really replace running. But strength-wise, I definitely feel a lot stronger in my quads.”
Martin led a group of five runners who crossed the finish line among the top 56 competitors at state last fall. Tahoma coach Jeff Brady knows there are strength in numbers.
“We didn’t want to just coach the best kids,” said Brady, who is in his sixth season as coach and 24th overall in the program. “We wanted to coach all the kids.”
The Bears’ boys squad started the preseason as the No. 1 team in the coaches poll for Class 4A and stayed there until falling to second in this week’s poll.
The Tahoma boys settled for second place in the team race to Camas (36-82) at Saturday’s Westside Classic district meet at Chambers Creek Properties Central Meadow. That cost them their No. 1 ranking heading into state. Camas moved up to No. 1.
The Bears were without No. 3 runner, Matthew Bruneel (20th-fastest 5,000-meter time in 4A this fall), who didn’t run because of a plantar fasciitis injury.
The Bears managed four runners in the top 13, led by senior Brian Martinez and Martin as both clocked in at 16:05.10 for seventh and eighth at district.
“The guys before us, when we were in middle school, they always came to our meets and they just showed us what working hard looks like,” said Brian Martinez, who was 14th at state last season. “That team in 2015 won state before us and we all looked up to them. We just wanted to be as good as them.”
Since 2010, the boys have placed 15th, eighth, eighth, sixth, third, first, seventh, seventh and first in the team standings at state.
“The expectation each year gets a little bit more,” Brady said.
The girls won their lone state title in 2011 and has been no worse than seventh since 2009 before missing state by just one point in 2018 and snapping a 15-year run.
The Bears’ girls program ran to a second-place showing at Saturday’s Westside Classic. Sophomore Faith Martinez’s fifth-place individual showing in 18:57.10 and five finishers in the top 25 helped senior-less Bears, ranked third in the coaches poll, return to state form.
“We saw the boys win the state championship and that really inspired us, like we could do it too,” said junior Lulu Brady, daughter of the coach, who starting running with the Bears’ high-school team as a youngster. “We wanted to get to state and have a really major comeback.”