SPORTS: Port Townsend duo will try for 1-2 state cross country finish again

PASCO — It would be hard to find more complementary runners to train with each other.

Bereket Piatt has the stamina and Habtamu Rubio the kick.

It’s a pairing that has already translated into one 1-2 finish at the Class 1A state cross country championships.

And if the two Port Townsend seniors have their way at Sun Willows Golf Course in Pasco, they’ll do it again on Saturday.

Of course, who finishes ahead of the other might be up for grabs.

“I beat him, he beats me. Really, we’re happy for each other [either way],” Rubio said last month after finishing second to Piatt at the Olympic League championships at Cedars at Dungeness Golf Course in Sequim.

“But it’s always competitive.”

Indeed it is.

The very next week, Rubio finished ahead of Piatt at the Westside Classic Tri-District meet.

The duo didn’t go 1-2 as planned, but they came awful close in finishing second and third to Tyler King of Coupeville.

King was fifth in the 4A race a year ago while running for Oak Harbor, and is recognized as the stiffest challenge to Port Townsend’s bid to go 1-2 in 1A for the third straight year.

A total of 20 North Olympic Peninsula runners will compete at the state meet this weekend (see list of area runners at state on Page B3).

That includes the Port Townsend boys team, which qualified after finishing fourth in the 1A Tri-District last week, and the Port Angeles girls (fifth in the 2A West Central District).

Yet it’s the two Redskin seniors who are the Peninsula’s leading challengers for a state crown.

The duo has trained together since they began running for the varsity team as freshmen.

At that time, Piatt ran with future 1A state champion and University of Montana runner Quinton Decker near the front of the pack.

Decker and Piatt eventually took first and second at the 1A meet in 2008.

With Decker gone to Montana a year later, Piatt had his turn on top at state with Rubio finishing 13 seconds behind him in second place.

Now they enter Saturday’s race as near equals, with Rubio beating Piatt from time to time with a superior closing kick. That’s, of course, if he can keep up.

“It’s mostly he beats me, so it’s just my goal [to stay with him],” Rubio said. “We work off each other really well, because he has the endurance and I have the speed.

“So we just keep each other on the go and keep each other focused and everything like that.

“We just try to push each other as hard as each other can go.”