Jeff Hashimoto knows where his cross country teams stand in the state, and so do the other coaches around the state.

The Washington State Cross Country Coaches Association tabbed Ellensburg girls and boys team top 5 in the preseason coaches poll.

The girls, who finished fifth at state last season, were ranked fourth. The boys, who finished eighth, were ranked fifth.

Both teams return their core runners as Ellensburg commences its 2019 season under 16-year head coach Hashimoto.

“Both boys and girls should be among the top teams in the state,” he said. “Got really strong teams, a lot of seniors who have worked really hard over a lot of years.”

The boys team alone will sport five seniors on the varsity squad. The top returner is Patrick Adkisson, who finished 25th at state (16:46), which was a resounding improvement from his sophomore finish (70th).

Also back are seniors Isak Larson (56th place at state), Zach Mathias (62nd), and Reese Braman (67th). Baylon Bean is one of the seniors and is vying in his first season with cross country.

Sophomore Gabe Fjellstad placed 81st at state (17:30) as a freshman.

There’s a mix of other sophomores and juniors who could see varsity time. They’ll for sure be able to fill in next season with the five seniors graduated.

“I think this boys team is stronger than it has been in a long time,” Adkisson said, who was Ellensburg’s top boys runner at the Ellensburg Invitational Saturday at Irene Rinehart Park with a fourth-place finish in the 1.5-mile relay with a leg time of 7:58. “We have like a super solid group of senior guys who are all pretty similar in times. So, I think we’re going to be pretty good contenders for state.”

Adkisson said his goal is to time under or around the 16-minute mark. This past offseason, he said he was running 40-50 miles per week with all the seniors and few other teammates. Earlier in the summer, it was around 30 miles per week.

Ellensburg and Selah High School boys teams have been duking it out for several years now. Selah finished first in the CWAC last season (9-0) ahead of Ellensburg (8-1). Selah was seventh in the preseason poll.

“It’s pretty fun actually. A friendly rivalry,” Adkisson said smiling. “We warm up together sometimes.”

HOLMGREN LEADS GIRLS

As for the Ellensburg girls, it returns its most prolific runner, senior Leah Holmgren. She guided the team to a fifth-place finish at state and was third individually with an 18:54 time.

Sophomore Kate Laurent returns after a standout season as a freshman, placing 14th at state (20:38) and was the runner-up to Holmgren at districts.

The two finished top three in the 1.5-mile girls relay split last Saturday. Holmgren had a leg time of 9:09 behind leader Ellie Rising (9:08). Laurent recorded a leg time of 9:28.

Seniors for the girls are Maddie Thompson, Tess Preppernau and Elisa Wallace.

Hashimoto mentioned a few key freshmen coming in with Holly Fromherz and Rylee Leishman. Junior Olivia Berthon-Koch also ran very well near the end of the season, according to Hashimoto.

What’s it going to take to win a state title?

“I think it’s probably going to take a lot of focus from the team and just making sure we’re all training and staying healthy and staying connected and making sure that we’re not like secluding each other, but really working on the family aspect,” Holmgren said.

Hashimoto says Ellensburg splits their goals into “result” and “process.”

“We generally expect to be one of the top teams in the state result wise. And we kind of set that goal and set that target, but then we really try to focus on the process and what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Hashimoto said the team is emphasizing on running technique this season.

“A lot of people think running is not a lot of technique, but it’s hugely technique intensive to run fast,” he said. “There’s drills, video analysis, and things to really be the most technically strong team out there.”

Another goal is to build the running community at Ellensburg.

“We work a lot on our community and try to get a lot of young runners, a lot of new runners. So, there’s a lot of teaching and passing on the knowledge and the desire down to the younger runners. For a team to be really competitive, you got to build that base.

“We have a lot of runners though who might never race a varsity race, but running can be a huge part of their life and we want to make that a positive thing.”

And an important one — mindset and positivity.

“That’s something we worked on a lot in the past,” Hashimoto said. “I want to continue to work on, because running is really hard, and getting the most out of your body is really hard. And so, what you tell yourself makes such a huge difference. And so, that’s one thing we work on a lot is how do you talk to yourself during a race? What is going through your mind? And how can you direct that?”

Ellensburg heads to the Sehome Invitational at 9 a.m. this Saturday.

EHS results from Ellensburg Invitational coe-ed relay event of the 32 teams:

1st Larson, Laurent, Braman, Holmgren and Adkisson (43:16).

5th Fjellstad, Preppernau, Wilson, Berthon-Koch and Bean (46:52).

8th Theo Dittmer, Thompson, Luther Belofsky, Fromherz and Garrett Mullings (49:07).

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