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Amongst some of the toughest competition in the state, Yelm junior Bryce Cerkowniak broke his school’s record in the cross country 5K and placed 5th in the boys gold with a time of 15:22.30, besting last season’s record by more than 22 seconds.

For a second year, Yelm runner Bryce Cerkowniak has bested the school’s cross country 5,000-meter time, adding further confidence that the No. 3 3A runner could be a serious contender for a state championship. 

It happened at last weekend’s Brooks Fort Steilacoom Invitational where Cerkowniak placed fifth in a pool of all-star champs, many of whom come from larger 4A schools and more established programs. 

Speaking with the Nisqually Valley News on Monday, head boys coach Alex McIntire said he didn’t even realize Cerkowniak had broken the school record until he was asked about it. 

“I wasn’t even thinking about how this was a school record. We just expect him to get faster and faster and faster,” McIntire said. 

The new record didn’t come so easy. McIntire said Cerkowniak started the boys gold 5K race at somewhat of a disadvantage, starting behind a rut of runners who made progression the first half mile near impossible. 

“He got stuck behind about 20 atheletes that he shouldn’t have been behind,” McIntire said. 

Cerkowniak worked his way up to finish right behind senior Kamiakin runner and 3A favorite Stanford Smith, who finished fourth with a time of 15:21.00. 

Cerkowniak’s school record-breaking time clocked in at 15:22.30, besting his school record last year of 15:46 by a fair margin, McIntire said. 

McIntire said having finished behind the favorite to take the state title this year isn’t the worst result. The hope is that it will bolster confidence in Cerkowniak and that he’ll continue to make strides in pursuit of gold. 

“We’re planning on having a state champ this year,” McIntire said. 

Overall, Yelm cross country coaches say they feel both boys and girls found some favorable results at the highly-competitive Fort Steilacoom Invitational. And the Tornados have also proven to be quite the competition in the SSC, having taken first at the second league meet in Gig Harbor. 

On the boys side, senior Logan Faber finished 54th at Steilacoom in the boys silver 5,000-meter race with a personal record of 19:05.6. Yelm sophomore Calum Thornhill finished 75th in the boys silver with a personal record of 19:31.3. 

First-year runner Ryan Lange finished 28th in his silver heat with a time of 17:09.10, the Yelm sophomore’s first and best 5K time. The Yelm sophomore has been working his way up since the beginning of the season, from Yelm’s No. 5 runner to being their No. 2.

“He’s doing a great job. He put in a lot of miles this summer and now he’s just learning how to race,” McIntire said. 

Junior Kelan Herness wasn’t too far behind either, and finished 38th with a personal record of 17:15.40. 

Sophomore Ethan Coon finished 58th with a time of 17.40.90, a mere two seconds behind the standout sophomore’s 2018 personal record in the 5K. Senior Jacob Barnert finished 73rd with a time of 17:59.60. 

McIntire said the overall progress from the boys varsity cannot be understated. 

“We’ve got five guys faster than our No. 2 last year,” he said. 

On the girls side, Yelm was well represented in the girls bronze 5K race. The Tornados finished fourth out of 10 teams from multiple divisions, scoring 120 points. 

Yelm junior Kya Ramirez led the pack, finishing eighth with a personal record of 21:59.50. Her goal this season was to drop below the 22-minute mark. 

“Now we’re kind of midway and she’s already substantially faster, which is great,” said girls head coach Dan Baker. 

Gabriella Willadsen, as usual, didn’t trail too far behind Ramirez. She finished 14th with her first personal record clocking in at 22:35.70 for the 5K. She was also the fastest freshman, besting Kennedy Catholic’s Ashley Chong by more than 10 seconds. 

Yelm sophomore Kaylee Faber finished 24th with a 23:05.00, her first personal record in the 5K. Junior Lenna Miskimens finished 36th for Yelm, clocking in a personal record of 23:40.60. 

Senior Anna Thaler (24:10.80) finished 46th, senior Elizabeth Unruh (24:33.70; PR) finished 57th and senior Eleonora Casarin (28:01.50; PR) finished 85th in what was a tight competition for the lead. 

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