To conclude its 2022 season, the Yelm cross country program sent seven athletes and two alternates to the 3A state competition where the Tornados placed 16th out of 20, and saw two of their athletes place in the top 100.
Zach Walsh was the highest placing Tornado at the Sun Willows Golf Course for the 3A state championships. He finished 27th and was followed by Paul Manwiller in 86th place. The other Tornado runners who placed included Sam Hall (101), Matt Walsh (163), Hewitt Smith (169), Damon Rebalais (177), and Cody Helligso (184).
The two alternates included Alex Hurd and Alex Segarra.
“Making it to state as a team is a huge accomplishment. It is an opportunity that is denied to nearly 60 3A teams,” head coach Alex McIntire. “One of the team characteristics that I appreciate the most is that they never questioned whether or not they would make it to state. Talk around the state meet was always centered around when rather than if.”
McIntire said the boys as individuals didn’t have the day they expected, but noted the team finished exactly where they were supposed to. He said Walsh, the program’s top runner, was battling a tough repository illness, but completed the competition with heart.
“That’s all I can ask for. Most of our runners were very consistent,” McIntire said. “I know that they were looking for a great day and they had a consistent day.”
McIntire also gave freshman Sam Hall a shout out, calling his performance at the state competition incredible. Hall was the sixth fastest freshman in the race and McIntire called him a great representation of what the future of the program will be.
The team will return nine out of its top 12 runners for the 2023-24 season, giving them a solid nucleus going forward.
“This group of young guys is strong. They want to be great and are willing to put in the work to get there,” McIntire said. “After doing some reflection on the year, I see the 2022 season as a crucial step in building something very special. The culture is strong.”
He added the young athletes on the team adopted the lifestyle and embraced the journey. McIntire said this season was one of tremendous growth for the Yelm cross country program.
“Thousands of boys and nearly 80 teams run cross country in 3A (throughout) Washington. Only one of them can win,” McIntire said. “That means we have to redefine winning. This year winning was not reflected on a podium or with a trophy. This year our definition of winning was experienced through daily commitment, lasting relationships, consistent growth, and becoming stronger humans. For those reasons, I am confident that these boys are winners. They can walk away from this season proud. I know I do.”