Rafe Holz boys Cross Country Runner of the Year

Sedro-Woolley senior Rafe Holz placed third this season in the Class 2A state meet.

Sedro-Woolley cross-country runner Rafe Holz knows what it’s like to have his season end on a disappointing note.

This year, the senior was ready to do what it took to make sure he wouldn’t feel that way again.

Holz revised his training, increased his miles and brought more focus to bear. It paid off with a third-place finish in the Class 2A state meet in Pasco, the highlight of the season for a resurgent Sedro-Woolley program.

For that dedication and finish, Holz has been selected the Skagit Valley Herald Boys’ Cross-Country Runner of the Year.

Last year, Holz finished 42nd at the state meet at Sun Willows Golf Course.

Though it’s a tough course, he wasn’t satisfied with how he performed. And he wasn’t about to wait until his senior season to prepare himself to run on it again.

“I was disappointed with how I finished at state,” he said. “I was sick of losing.”

Holz turned to a coach in Bellingham, Justin Burgess, who more than doubled the miles Holz ran per week, building from 35 miles to about 80.

“It was more volume, more intensity,” Holz said. “It was a slow buildup. When he first told me how much mileage I’d do I was a little intimidated, but I got used to it.”

Cubs coach Shawn VanTassel said Holz’s preparation was apparent.

“He’s the one kid that trained year-round. He didn’t just run, he was training for a goal. It made a difference,” VanTassel said. “A lot of guys ran through the year, but he trained for what he wanted to accomplish.”

It turned out to be an exciting year for the Cubs, with the boys qualifying for the Class 2A state meet as a team and freshman Kameryn Burton leading the way for the girls with an eventual top-20 finish at state.

“It brought a lot of excitement,” Holz said of the program’s success. “It was nothing like I expected.”

Holz rolled through the regular season and postseason, with first-place finishes in successive weeks at the Skagit County meet, the Northwest Conference meet and the Bi-District 2A meet.

Holz wanted to get another No. 1 finish in his return to Pasco. He didn’t, but snagged a memorable third-place finish on a hilly course.

“I did my best,” Holz said. “It was all I could ask for.”

Holz’s running career won’t end there. He’ll run next year at Western Washington University.

It’s a good fit both academically and athletically, he said.

“It’s one of the best Division II programs in the country,” he said. “And it’s close to home.”

— Reporter Trevor Pyle: 360-416-2156, tpyle@skagitpublishing.com, Twitter: @Sports_SVH, Facebook.com/bytrevorpyle

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