“We’re like a family, pushing each other. I love the camaraderie of it,” said Alanni Wingert, sophomore captain of the women’s cross country team.
Clark cross-country teams are “looking competitive,” according to coach Bob Williams. He said he thinks the women’s team can be regional champions and even finish in second or third place in the Northwest Athletic Conference championship. He said “the men show promise,” and expects to see them in the top four at the NWAC finals. But, “you never know. You can run a great race and still not win,” he said.
The Penguins will host the NWAC championship Nov. 14 at Lewisville Park in Battle Ground.
James Breen, sophomore captain of the men’s team, was voted NWAC Athlete of the Week in the fifth week of the season. Breen started running cross-country his junior year at Heritage High School and said he loves the “runner’s high.”
He and Sam Garvin swept the Mike Hodges Invitational taking first and second place, with Garvin only 16 seconds behind Breen. Garvin earned Athlete of the Week honors from NWAC in week seven.
According to Williams, the women have beaten every school in their region at least once, and most teams in the north region, except Spokane. “Spokane is a powerhouse,” Williams said. He said Treasure Valley is a team to beat in the men’s category.
Williams noted the men’s team’s struggle to stay healthy. Two players are currently injured and on the path to recovery, he said.
Last season, William’s first year with Clark cross-country, was very different. The Penguins ran with just three men and six women, two of which had never competed before. “We had to scrape and scratch a team together,” Williams said. But he said the support of the athletic directors has not gone unnoticed. Breen said the team has practically doubled in size.
Wingert was on the All-American track team last year. “If she’s healthy, you never know what she can do,” Williams said. Wingert said she plans to transfer to Gonzaga University to pursue nursing and compete for the division one university.
Breen sees his future running at Eastern Washington University.
Wingert recalled a fond memory of her high school team. “I remember this one time when it was really rainy and there was this really muddy spot that the whole team met up at,” she said. “We were all sliding and throwing chunks of mud at each other, even at our coaches.”
Williams described their approach as one of optimistic caution. “The women have a target on their backs,” he said.
According to Williams, their main goal is the NWAC championship.