Claire Cocales saved her best race for the end of her prep cross country career.
With the 5K terrain in front of her last Saturday at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, the Lake Washington High senior prepared to embark on her fourth consecutive 3A state meet. It would be an unforgettable journey.
She finished 18th in a personal-record 18 minutes, 37 seconds, nearly a minute faster than her district performance on Oct. 28 and 33 seconds faster than her previous PR set last year. Her best time this year was a 19:26 fifth-place KingCo meet finish on Oct. 21.
To top it off, she set a new girls’ school record, knocking off the former speediest mark by 15 seconds.
“Because it was my last race, I really just wanted to give everything I had, try to get over any nerves I had,” said Cocales, noting that she aimed to have maximum mental focus, start out fast and finish the race strong.
“Keep pushing, pushing, pushing…,” she added on Monday with excitement in her voice as if the race had just ended.
Cocales said overall it was a good race, one in which she started to feel the wear and tear at the two-mile mark and a bit more pain during the last 800 meters. The Kang forged through it all and said the she, her family members and her coach were thrilled with the result.
“I didn’t want to have any regrets,” Cocales said about giving it her all from start to finish. “It was a great feeling. I trained really hard this season, and it was confirmation of all the work I’ve done all the years throughout high school.”
She could assess from her time and placement throughout the race that she was running better than ever.
Cocales first laced up her running shoes in middle school, put in tons of training and never looked back.
“I just liked it and had a passion for it,” she said.
She also runs the one- and two-mile races in track and has set a goal to qualify for her first state meet in the spring.
For now, Cocales will take two weeks off from running, but then she’ll be back and easing into a regimen of six days and 30 miles a week to train for track season.
“I’ve got the momentum and drive to go for it,” she said.
• LW’s Sophie Kirov and Juanita’s Felicity Strzelec also competed at the state cross country meet.