With a history of racing at Franklin Park dating back to grade school, Kate Laurent was in perfect position to win in her high school finale at the Sunfair Invitational.

The Ellensburg senior, who was second here as a junior and runner-up in her flight as a sophomore, had the lead with a lap to go and nothing but open spaces in front and behind. The only thing that might spoil this much-deserved moment almost did.

"I got a really big side ache on the last lap and I really had to fight that," she said. "I was thinking, 'Oh no, you can't drop out. Keep going, you can do it.' It was scary and kind of frustrating because that last lap could've been way stronger and faster."

Even with such issues working against her, Laurent remained plenty strong and fast.

Dropping 26 seconds off her previous best on the three-mile looping layout, Laurent clocked 18 minutes, 51 seconds for an eight-second victory and became the Valley's first Sunfair girls winner since 1994 at the 48th annual edition Saturday afternoon.

With brave tactics and a clear intent to be the one to beat, Laurent towed the field through a 6:05 first mile, a point reached at the top of the terraces where she already had a three-second lead. The most challenging mile, the second, only served to widened the gap and gave her plenty to lean when the side ache hit.

"I'm so very happy to get the win because I have raced here a lot and I love it here. It was on my mind before the race, that this would be my last one," she said. "I've been working so hard and I want to show it. I still feel like I can do better than this, but with COVID and everything it's been hard. It wasn't as fast as I'd like, but it's still exciting to win this race."

Mead senior Alanna Parker also dipped under 19 minutes, finishing second in the elite race in 18:59 and finishing off the Panthers' team victory. The state's top-ranked 3A team, Mead won three of the seven flights and scored 13 points. Issaquah and Eagle of Idaho tied for second with 23 points.

West Valley sophomore Skye Stenehjem and Eisenhower junior Isabela Alvarado finished 1-2 in the sixth flight, clocking 19:16 and 19:22, respectively.

Laurent's teammate as a freshman and sophomore, Leah Holmgren, was a Sunfair runner-up in 2019, and Ellensburg's Uhuru Hashimoto was fourth in 2017 — the year that Laurent was third in the middle-school race as an eighth-grader at Morgan Middle School.

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"I actually love the course," she said. "It's hard, and it's real cross country."

Isaac Teeples knows exactly what she means.

The Kamiakin senior came to Sunfair with the idea of making a run at its 28-year-old course record of 14:48 but discovered what so many suspect — that record may never fall. Two years ago as a sophomore, Teeples was second here in 15:12 and watched Eisenhower's Jonas Price take a shot at Matt Davis' venerable mark and come up eight seconds short.

In his return, Teeples was indeed impressive in victory but came up well short in 15:03. A faster time would've required more support and he won by 25 seconds.

"I was looking at that record and it would've been awesome, but today was not the day," said Teeples, who last week broke Price's Bellevue Invite record with 14:55 for 5,000 meters. "My body definitely didn't feel as good as, say, last weekend. But it was still a great race even if I didn't feel amazing."

Teeples had company for a mile, which he hit in 5:02 with Lakes junior Cruize Corvin a couple strides back. But the gap was up to seven seconds at the second mile, and the reigning 3A state champion from 2019 pulled away decisively with a closing mile of 4:51. Corvin, who was within seven seconds of Teeples last week, was all alone in second in 15:28.

While not as dominant as their Sunfair wins in 2017, '18 and '19, Kamiakin's boys were still plenty stout with wins in four of the seven flights for a team score of 12 points. Eagle of Idaho was second with 24.

Eisenhower senior Amha Alemeneh won the fourth flight with the Valley's top time of 16:42, and teammate Aiden Waddle turned in 16:52. West Valley had a trio of boys — Nathan Ditto, Caden Casteel and Emil Miller — all dip under 17 minutes.

As for Teeples, who preceded his Bellevue record with a 14:26 record run on Apple Ridge's three-mile course, this record was a bit much. But he sure enjoyed taking a crack at it.

"That is so impressive, 14:48. But it's Matt Davis and he's a legend," he said. "This is such a tough course and I love that. It's not just you against the competition here, it's also you against the course. I wish I had another shot at it, but no excuses. It was fun anyway."

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