Liberty girls lose tiebreaker, finish No. 2 in KingCo cross country

October 25, 2011

By Sebastian Moraga

Sara Bliesner takes the top girls finish among Liberty runners with a fifth-place, 19-minute, 52.42-second race on the 3.1 mile course at Lake Sammamish State Park. By Greg Farrar

The Liberty High School Patriots had five girls place in the top 20 at the KingCo Conference 3A cross country championships Oct. 21 at Lake Sammamish State Park.

The performance was good enough to force a tie with powerhouse Mercer Island. Both teams had 49 points.

However, the tiebreaker was the sixth runner on each team. Mercer Island’s finished 19th, and Liberty’s finished 24th, earning the Islanders the team championship.

It’s the second consecutive runner-up finish at KingCo for the Patriots. Liberty coach Mike Smith predicted a close finish.

“I told the girls it would probably be within five points,” he said.

Nevertheless, nobody wept at Liberty’s misfortune, least of all the Patriots’ runners themselves. The top four teams advanced to the Sea-King District Championships, along with the top 20 runners. Liberty enters the district meet Oct. 27 at Lake Sammamish as defending champions.

Liberty’s Sara Bliesner finished fifth in the 3.1-mile race in 19 minutes, 52.42 seconds.

Bliesner also had the Islanders in the crosshairs.

“Our real competition is Mercer Island,” she said. “Coach told us we had to step it up.”

Teammate Allie Wood finished sixth in 19:57.10. Liberty’s Megan Chucka placed ninth in 20:07.01.

An ailing Chucka, sick for the past two weeks, took her performance with a mixture of satisfaction and wistfulness at what she could have done if healthy. She wanted to break the 20-second mark and barely missed.

“I’m not unpleased with it, I guess,” she said.

Patriot runner Amy Broska finished 12th in 20:21.36 with teammate Megan Larson taking 17th in 20:30.49 . Liberty’s Aimee Christensen finished 24th in 21:12.24 and Rachel Shaw finished 27th in 21:31.31.

The course at Lake Sammamish State Park was flat and somewhat easy, except for the sand parts that seemed to drain the runners, Larson said.

“It takes a lot out of you,” she said. “But the toughest end up on top.”

The Liberty girls’ performance continued a strong season. Larson said one key to the team’s success was great chemistry.

“We support each other,” she said. “We are all really, really close.”

Being close was also part of the strategy, Smith said. Close to the Islander runners, that is.

“The key was running close to their second through fourth girls,” he said. “Get as many girls around her as we could, because she runs really consistently.”

She, in this case, is Katia Matora, the Mercer Island standout that finished first in 18:40.99.

“We just ran with them and tried to keep displacing one or two of them at the end,” Smith said. “And that was pretty exciting.”

The Liberty boys finished second. Bellevue, all of its top five runners placing in the top 10, easily won the team title with 19 points. Liberty was second with 87 points. The finish was the highest for the Liberty boys since 2005.

Hiron Redman was Liberty’s top runner, taking ninth in 16:47.22.

“That’s what we wanted,” Redman said, pumping a fist, about his top-10 finish. “That’s what we wanted.”

Aaron Bowe was 11th, Nick Knoblich came in 14th, Mason Goodman placed 24th and Collin Olson was 29th to round out Liberty’s top five runners.

John Fowler, of Bellevue, won the 3.1-mile race in 15:54.71.

Sebastian Moraga: 392-6434, ext. 221, or Comment at

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