The dry spell is over. For the first time in eleven years, the Steilacoom High School Girls Cross Country team, also known as the “Gold Rush”, made it to state.
On Saturday, November 3, teammates Rori Fortmann, Jamie Stalder, Niki Hobbs, Sophie Kingsley, Amanda Jaynes, Regan Bernardoni and Adele Tietgen represented the Sentinel’s women’s team at the state cross country championship meet held in Pasco, Washington. The girls team, which faced some serious competition, ended up in 14th place.
“What’s important is, we made it to State as a team, and not as individuals,” said Kingsley.
Teamwork is something that every coach tries to convey to their athletes. From soccer to football, baseball and even cross country, working together as a team is what makes good teams great. It’s something the Sentinel girls cross country team took to heart.
Adele Tietgen is an exchange student from Germany attending SHS this year. She’s also a runner. Tietgen joined the team and found a wonderful opportunity to make friends. When she became injured during a cross country meet, teammate Rori Fortmann stayed with her and encouraged her to finish.
“I wouldn’t let her walk. She had to run and keep up with me, but I wasn’t going to leave her behind,” said Fortmann.
When it became clear that the girls had a chance to make it to State, Tietgen told her teammates they had to do it this year – because she would never get this chance again.
“I won’t be here next year. This was a once in a lifetime experience,” she said.
Making it to state doesn’t happen on a whim. A lot of blood, mud, sweat and tears are involved. It’s a process that is largely driven by supportive coaches who never let the girls give up. When asked what the girls thought of their coach, Jennie Lange, the room lit up with lively chatter and big smiles.
“We love her. She cares so much about running. We feed off of her energy,” said Amanda Jaynes.
Team Captain Nikki Hobbs said the girl’s cross country team has evolved dramatically in the three years she’s been running.
“The first year I hated it. The second year, Coach Lange was there. It was still tough but not quite as bad as the first year. I managed to make it to Districts. This year was completely different. We had 20 girls at the start of the season – a real team. It’s much different to have a team of girls instead of just one or two girls running,” said Hobbs.
“Coach Lange taught us how to run, and how to love it, but the training was hard” added Tietgen.
“If we didn’t have the training she gave us, we would have died,” laughed Regan Bernardoni.
Training consisted of 10 mile runs and sprint work, and the dreaded hill repeats. All the girls agree that Lange’s coaching and boundless energy propelled them to place second as a team at Sub Districts and Districts.
While Lange was working on teamwork and conditioning, the boys Cross Country Coach, Mike Henderson, kept track of how fast the Sentinel girls ran compared to their competitors at each meet.
“Coach Henderson came up to me after every race and showed me my score and compared it to my competitors to put things into perspective. He told me I could beat them. He pointed out all the standings for all of us to help us get to the next level,” explained Jaynes.
Most importantly, the girls learned how to run for each other, and for other people.
“When we were at State, we ran for two soldiers in my Dad’s unit in Afghanistan who they recently lost. One of the soldiers was also a cross country runner,” shared Bernardoni.
1st Lt. Sean Jacobs and Staff Sgt. John Hansen were remembered by the team by having their names written on tape that was stuck to the girls.
It’s actions like this that make Coach Lange gush with pride over not only how well the girls ran this season, but how they have matured together.
“They all fit together like a wonderful puzzle. They are so tolerant of each other’s little quirks, which is what I think God intended for us. I hope they can bring that into adulthood so that as women, they know how to get along,” shared Lange.
Jaynes explained that they learned to respect each other’s boundaries, support each other, and lift each other up when necessary.
“We have a bond that most teams don’t have,” she shared.
“We’re more like a family than a team,” added Stalder.
Lange said she is very appreciative of all the support the team received from not only the parents and the Booster Club, but also Superintendent Bill Fritz, High School Principal Brian Hanson and Assistant Principal and Athletic Director Michael Miller.