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Redmond High boys and girls runners on track for more success
Coach Denis Villeneuve stood at the podium and looked out at the roomful of cross country runners with an air of confidence. He was ready to share a personal side of himself, and he wasn’t going to hold anything back when telling the Redmond High athletes about the first marathon he tackled at age 18 in Eugene, Ore.
The Mustang coach spoke of the pain he endured while participating in that race. He dug down deep and finished the race, and he wanted the young runners to learn from his experience.
“If you’re determined, you’ll be successful,” he told the runners on Tuesday afternoon.
A few minutes later, he told the Reporter: “We try to teach them the healthy mind-body connection. Obviously, we want them to run well, but we want them to do well in life. We want them to like running and be a healthy lifelong runner, and if we have success along the way, that’s a bonus.”
Both the Mustang boys and girls return to the course this season on a high after compiling identical 6-0 records and winning 4A Kingco Crest Division titles last year. The girls took fourth at districts while the boys took seventh — and the girls rolled on to the state meet for the 12th consecutive year and notched a seventh-place finish.
Redmond’s season begins tomorrow at the Tahoma Relays at Lake Wilderness State Park in Maple Valley, and then the Mustangs will compete at the Kingco preview on Sept. 12 at Lincoln Park in West Seattle.
Two of Redmond’s top returners will be senior Carter Aebi and junior Megan LeGresley, both of whom took first in the boys and girls divisions at the Mustangs’ recent fundraiser 5K at Hartman Park. Aebi finished in 17 minutes, four seconds and LeGresley broke the girls’ course record in 18 minutes, 47 seconds.
Aebi’s goal is to break the 16-minute the mark in the 5K this season.
“I’ve also been doing strength training. I’ve really been trying to focus more on my upper body, too, because I’ve been pretty skinny,” said Aebi, adding that he worked hard in the offseason, as well.
He’s been running cross country since the ninth grade and feels that Villeneuve’s motivational stories can help carry him to success this season.
“I just love that moment after the race when you hear that PR (personal record) time — it’s a really good feeling,” said Aebi, who is joined by fellow senior captain Zach Kirwan at the top of the Mustang roster this season.
On the girls’ side, senior captains Kelsey Dunn and Claira Young join LeGresley as returners from last year’s state squad.
According to Villeneuve, Dunn and LeGresley are in top form and are smart, competitive runners.
“It’s really nice they have each other because they just push each other,” the coach said. He added that Young — whose older brother and sister, Will and Holly, were Redmond team captains — has built herself into a solid runner over the last few years, as well.
LeGresley has been running since seventh grade when her dad encouraged her to give it a shot. Being a premier soccer player, she thrived in the new sport.
She’s dedicated herself to Mustang cross country over the years.
“I’ve just been trying to follow the training program as best I can and I’m really working on trying to get stronger this year, so hopefully I can help my team make it back to state this year,” LeGresley said. “(I’m) getting in all the recovery runs, not just the quality days, making sure my mileage is up and also doing strength training at the gym and swimming and biking some. I definitely think it’s worth it.”
Like Aebi, she said that Villeneuve’s stories inspire her to do well on the course.
As Redmond’s girls prepare for meets that may lead them to yet another state berth, Villeneuve notes one of the reasons why the girls have found success over the last 12 years: “Girls bond a little bit more than the boys, so if I can get them to do that then they usually have the gumption to get themselves qualified for state.”
Andy Nystrom photos: Carter Aebi, left, runs with Carson Fujisaki during practice. The Mustangs run around the track.