The Yelm Tornados bested the Capital Cougars 23-32 in a one-on-one, 2.1-mile open meet Wednesday in Olympia. The event was both teams’s first conference competition of the season, and was rescheduled from last Saturday due to the snow. 

Because they only had four girls out on the course, the Lady Tornados were ineligible to tally a score (the Cougars scored 15). Still, senior Kya Ramirez and freshman Sophia Laughlin held their own against a well-versed group of girls, both making top-10 finishes. 

Yelm senior Bryce Cerkowniak took lead of the pack early and showed no sign of stopping, ultimately finishing first at 10 minutes, 26 seconds. Capital senior Adam Petersen placed second, roughly 36 seconds behind Cerkowniak, with Yelm’s Ryan Lange close behind him in third and Yelm’s Ethan Coon in at fifth. 

The Tornados held a lower spread between its top-five runners, with 1 minute, 48 seconds to the Cougars’ 2 minutes, 31 seconds. 

Lange, a junior and top Yelm runner, said the Tornados ran well though not nearly as well as they could have. Despite the course's challenges -- and with Yelm’s No. 2 Kelan Herness out on a minor injury -- it was a positive result, he said. 

Part of the problem, Lange said, was the recent snow storm that stilted training for a few days.

“I’ve never been that tired in a race, through a mile, and I was going nowhere near as fast as I usually run,” said Lange, whose 2-mile personal best last year rang in nearly a minute faster than Wednesday’s 2.1-mile course. “We should definitely be a lot faster, a lot better.” 

Yelm’s head boys coach Alex McIntire said he felt his younger guys really stepped up during the race. The course, composed of three complete loops and a breakaway hill climb, can get as mentally exhausting as it is physically.

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Yelm's Kya Ramirez and Sophia Laughlin, both leading, cross onto Capital's track and field Wednesday during a meet against the host team. 

Matthew Epplin, first-year head boys coach for Capital, said his boys had some nerves coming into the first meet of the season, especially with so little practice time and after not having proper meets in more than a year.  

The Cougars’ top runner, Petersen, has been running competitively for many years, Epplin said, and is a star competitor. Out of the course, Petersen made exemplary use of form and held off advancing Yelm runners in solid fashion. 

“He puts in the miles, he puts in the work, and he just looks effortless out there. He’s a really fun kid to coach,” Epplin said. “And the thing with Adam, too, is that he’s not just a really good competitor -- he’s an excellent competitor -- but he’s also a very good team captain. I could step away, and he could lead us for a week and I think we would be just fine.” 

Dan Baker, Yelm girls cross country coach, said his girls had a good showing despite challenges with the incline and weaving through the multiple intersections of the course. Ramirez and Laughlin, who have been training together since summer, led the pack for the first half of the race. 

“I thought they both did fantastic, and so I was really happy with what they did and their first race coming out,” Baker said. 

Laughlin, a Yelm freshman previously the top runner in her middle school’s cross country program, looked real comfortable out on the course and could make some decent strides for the Tornados this season. 

“Clare Lawlor also had a fantastic race. She was very fit, did a lot of work in the winter and progressed and improved throughout the race,” said Baker, noting that he was missing about half his roster for various reasons. “The ones we had did their job today.” 

Capital junior Aubrey Harrington took first in the girls 2.1-mile open with a personal best of 13:58. She was a top-5 competitor at last season’s district meet and went on to clinch 22nd at the state meet in Pasco. 

Yelm will be at North Thurston this Friday for a regular conference meet and Capital will meet conference-newbies River Ridge at the Lacey Recreational Athletics Complex on Friday.

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