Sports

Experience meets youth on Mount Si X-Country team

Upperclassmen on the fall 2009 Wildcat cross country squad include, from left, Julie Censullo, Geena Bumgardner, Alex Rudd, Zac Pearlstein, Alix Crandell, Brett Duncan, Jessareh Helm and Blake Parker. - Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record
Upperclassmen on the fall 2009 Wildcat cross country squad include, from left, Julie Censullo, Geena Bumgardner, Alex Rudd, Zac Pearlstein, Alix Crandell, Brett Duncan, Jessareh Helm and Blake Parker.
— image credit: Seth Truscott / Snoqualmie Valley Record

Mount Si High School’s cross country program could be on track for an exciting season this year, thanks to a promising crop of new runners and a core of experienced veterans.

“(I’m) really looking at our girls team to do something special this year,” head coach Christine Kjenner said.

A trip to the state tournament is possible for the girls’ team, she said.

The team is led by several strong veterans, including senior Alex Rudd. She’s been to the girls’ 3A state meet each of her three years in high school and won her age group — women’s 15 to 19 — at Snoqualmie Days 10k run. Her teammate Kaylee Galloway finished fourth in the same race.

For the past two years, Rudd has been the Wildcats’ lone representative at state. She hopes to change that this year.

“After seeing how some of the girls performed last year making it to districts, I really think that if we keep encouraging each other and working hard, which we plan to do, and set some team goals, I can hopefully drag some people with me on the trip,” Rudd said.

Boys runner Zac Pearlstein, a senior, has his eyes on state as well.

“It would be nice to join her (there) this year,” he said.

Pearlstein finished 34th overall in the Snoqualmie Days 10k run and was the first Snoqualmie Valley resident across the finish line.

Sophomore runner Richard Carmichael finished 61st overall.

The top runners bring experience and energy that reverberates throughout the team.

“(The) kids are committed to running, running at this level,” said Kjenner, who is returning for her seventh season as head coach.

“The level that Zac and Alex are running at, it becomes a year-round commitment,” she said. “They just love it. They share it. They train younger kids. It’s just a passion of theirs.”

Assistant coaches Art Galloway and Brian Peterman round out the Wildcats’ coaching staff.

The program received a big influx of new runners this fall, including some talented freshmen.

“We have an awesome turnout. We’ve really added to our boys. We’ve got a number of freshmen turning out new to the program who look like strong runners,” Kjenner said.

One prospect, Alex Censullo, won his under-14 age group in the Railroad Days race.

Carmichael hopes the growth continues.

“We need more runners,” he said. “We need people to run cross country. It’s not as popular a sport as other sports. We need new blood, new people to run.”

The coaching staff has to turn the team’s new recruits into runners.

“Our whole philosophy is we take the kids wherever they’re at and we build them up and make them quicker and stronger and faster,” Kjenner said. They will be brought along slowly to avoid injuries and burnout.

Mount Si’s runners will face tough competition this fall, especially Bellevue, Mercer Island and Eastlake.

“All the teams in Kingco are amazingly strong running teams” this year, Kjenner said.

But Mount Si’s cross country runners are up to the challenge, she said.

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