Maple Valley sisters hope to run to state title together | Cross country
By TJ MARTINELL
Covington Reporter Reporter
September 19, 2012 · Updated 10:27 AM
Tahoma High senior Elizabeth Oosterhout is determined to see the girls cross country team reclaim the title it won a year ago.
If all goes as hoped, her freshman sister, Abby, will be running alongside her.
Although the season has just started, Abby has already shown potential to be one of the top runners on the team. During their first meet against Auburn-Riverside and Kentridge, Abby took eighth with a time of 21:21, while Elizabeth took first at 20:08.
Abby, along with the other freshman girls, has benefited greatly from preseason training that started immediately after the last season ended. The team, led by Head Coach Gary Conner, along with Jeff Brady, Jodi Hoffbuhr and Anne Hobson, is known for training year round.
“After they won state Conner decided to get some of the eighth graders ready for track and cross country season,” Abby said. “We did run with a lot of the freshmen. A couple of us ran on the trails. They would really help us and tell us what cross country is about.”
Having watched his older daughter progress as a runner on the team over three years, their father, Tim Oosterhout, said the team’s culture and attitude makes it easy for new runners, regardless of their current running ability.
“I think it’s amazing how it started with Elizabeth her freshman year, and maybe it’s part of the DNA the coaches instill in them, but they really do embrace the new, younger runners,” he said. “I think it’s really wonderful to see that embedded as part of the team. (Conner) puts the full court press. But he’s big about putting the right priorities in life…it’s something they preach with the kids over and over. I think it says a lot that the coaches...are also concerned about the character of these kids, from the faster kid all the way down the line. They want to build character and team work and all those great values. They value every kid that comes out regardless of what their talent is.”
Another important aspect of the team, Elizabeth said, is the relationship between individual and team achievement and how they both can be accomplished. While she hopes to break 18:30 this year as a personal goal — her personal record is 18:42 from last season — the main goal, she said, is to for the team to defend the state title.
“I think we really have a great line up of girls,” Elizabeth said. “Everyone works so hard. Everyone goes above and beyond what they’re supposed to be doing. I feel really good about this team. I also think trying to make my teammates better is one of my bigger goals. That’s the only way we’re going to win state again is if we collaborate together.”
Incidentally, Elizabeth said she was originally interested in swimming beginning in the fifth grade. Up until freshman year, running was merely a part of her training. During those workouts, however, she said she found herself enjoying the competition as well as running for its own sake.
“As part of the training, I found myself competing in the running during the practice during swim,” Elizabeth said. “I think in middle school PE I was so competitive — I’ve always been competitive. In middle school track I thought maybe I could actually pursue this. So from my mile times in middle school I kept improving.”
After practicing with the cross country team the summer before her freshman year, Elizabeth finally decided to make the switch, and she hasn’t looked back since. In addition to the Tahoma cross country team and track team, she has also run with the Federal Way Track Club since her freshman year.
“Some of the seniors I ran with my freshman year suggested I do it,” Elizabeth said. “I love the coach and I love the people. They also have really helped me improve and get ready for the track season.”
The switch in sports, Tim Oosterhout said, was an unexpected turn, but has turned out for the best.
“We were actually a little surprised by it,” he said. “Elizabeth got into swimming and did very well at it, and then naturally gravitated towards running. She’s just surprised us with her endurance and discipline around practicing. She really owns it herself. Abby surprised us by following us in her sister’s footsteps. We (Tim and his wife) feel our job is we don’t have to push them but support them and encourage.”
Although Abby ran on the Tahoma Junior High track team her seventh and eighth grade year, Elizabeth, as well as the other girls on the team, attended many of her meets and helped encourage her from the bleachers. One of the things Elizabeth said she stresses is relying on the other girls on the team while also encouraging them at the same time.
“I think just pushing others around you is going to ultimately make you better if you learn to push others,” Elizabeth said. “Just working it, giving it all you got every day no matter how you feel or what happens that day. I’ve definitely learned support from your teammates is vital.”
The best example of individual effort and team cooperation working together seamlessly, she said, was when they won state last year.
“We all pulled it together and we have such a strong group of girls,” Elizabeth said. “Each girl put everything they had into the race. We couldn’t have done it without each and every girl and each and every coach was so supportive. They helped us achieve our goals.”
Another habit Elizabeth has stressed is learning to use a temporary setback as an opportunity to put in double the effort.
“I definitely think sophomore year of cross country was kind of a let down,” Elizabeth said. “I didn’t have the greatest year. I was so put down. But that really just helped me realize I needed to work even harder to achieve my goals, and that year after my sophomore track season was the best track season I’ve ever had. I think definitely my sophomore cross country season taught me how much harder I needed to work to achieve my goals.”
Whatever passion Elizabeth and the rest of the team have, Tim Oosterhout said, it’s already started to rub off on Abby.
“She got the fever,” he said. “She just goes out there and has a real self-motivation. I think it’s paid off for them (the new runners).”
Contact Covington Reporter Reporter TJ Martinell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 425-432-1209 ext. 5052.