On Saturday the top runners in the state will be at Lane Community College in Eugene to take their shot at State titles along with berths in the Oregon – Washington Border Clash, which will be about two weeks later. With some many divisions the overall competition will be watered down but there still should be some interesting races. Hopefully they will be greeted with good conditions for a change, so the runners won’t be literally watered down on Saturday.
The 5A girls are the one division, which appears to be a lock, as the Summit girls are for my money the top team in the Northwest much less the state. They are led by Megan Fristoe, who ran 17:39 in her District race. Megan has won the divisional title the last two years and, if she is anywhere near form she will be difficult to top no matter who races from Oregon. Of course she leads a team that has won every State championship since the state created the 5A division. If Megan is to be challenged, the most likely source would be her own team mates Ashley Maton & Piper McDonald. Ashley ran 17:57 in her district and won the New Balance Invitational. Freshman Piper McDonald won a division at New Balance and placed second at Bend and has a best time of 18:10. Summit is so strong that Kira Kelly, who ran her best time of the year at District (18:32) could make it a sweep of the top places, although it is a good deal to ask. Not far behind Kira should be Sara Fristoe, Keelin Moehl & Tess Nelson, who all could earn tickets to Border Clash. The Summit Storm are so strong it is hard to imagine anything stopping them from yet another championship and even, if it snowed, many do cross country skiing, so they’d win in the snow. Everyone one else is running for second.
In evaluating the team we have also reviewed a fair number of the top individuals but there are some quality individuals, who are capable of making their presence felt. Shannon Susbauer of Milwaukie has followed a break-out track season with an even better XC one. She was second at Fanning and won at Liberty & the NWOC District. She placed third at Albany with a PR of 18:16. Morgan Anderson of Silverton has been a pleasant surprise this season since her second place finish in Wilsonville. Since then she has won the Silver Falls Invitational and placed fifth at Bend Oxford. Morgan has a PR of 18:29. Taryn Rawlings of Wilsonville placed second at State last year & must be considered. Jenna Mattox of Bend has one of the better times this fall and should be in the top ten as well. Others to watch are Monica Anderson & Molly Bohrer of Marist plus Kelsey Hilsenteger of Putnam.
Going into the season defending champion Hermiston seemed like the team to beat. They do have a formidable pack, which includes Alejandro Cisneros, Eduardo Juarez, Jose Macias & Javier Velasco. They seem to take turns as the team leader & they will be in the mix but how far near the front they all will be is crucial and their fifth man has to close the gap on the others for them to be successful. The Summit guys, however, have jumped to the front of the pack with a very solid group of runners. Travis Neuman is the team leader & he has not lost since the first race of the season & that loss was to Anthony Armstrong: one of our nation’s best. Travis is the one to beat in the individual race, as his Concordia time of 15:16 would attest. Following not all that far behind is his team mate Eric Aldritt, who would have won three races if Travis had not been in the race. That is an impressive 1 – 2 punch up front and they have Luke Hinz, who has run 16:06, and Matt Maton who will provide ample support plus Sammy Naffziger is a very fine fifth runner. If they are ‘on’ they will be tough to beat. Franklin is the third team in the mix and Jackson Baker, who won at Wilsonville, Hermiston & Hood River, will provide a very low score. Jackson is more than capable of claiming a State title and has run 15:24. Backing up Jackson is Fletcher Hazelhurst, who has run 16:08. The pack has improved since the beginning of the year and the team should do well. Ryan Byrd of St. Helens ran 15:38 at Concordia and can be expected to be in the mix for an individual title, along with Akiharu Kitagawa of Wilsonville plus Alex Dillard of The Dalles-Wahtonka, who won the Oxford Bend Classic.
The girls’ 6A race on paper appears to be a fairly wide open affair with a number of teams capable of victory given certain breaks. The news in some ways is that for the first time in years it is not an open and shut case for Jesuit, which has won every large-school race since 2002. South Eugene was the last team to top them at state & it would add a certain symmetry to things, if they turned the trick this year. The Axemen certainly have the leaders up front with Sara Tsai & Erin Clark leading the way. Erin is a champion at track and has had a fine season including a PR of 17:43. As well as Erin has run Sara has been a step ahead most of the way. She won at Concordia with 17:41. SE has the services of Paige Kouba, who is a fine 800 Meter run with the ability to stretch that speed over a distance. Paige will not be too far behind so the team is solid. With the return of Genevieve Brandt from injury to go with Phacelia Cramer South Eugene has a solid shot. That said, the Crusaders are not exactly defenseless. In fact it is a very formidable team. The difference is that they are not as strong as in the past few seasons. Adrienne Demaree ran 17:57 at the Metro District and should lead the team along with Olivia Artaiz & Dylan Hite. Although it does not appear that Jesuit can compete up front their pack is very capable of pulling the team through and Megan Mullaney, Lindsay Sheaffer & Zani Moore could very well make the difference. Paige Rice leads St. Mary’s and her presence alone makes them a team to watch. She earned second last fall and she has not lost to an Oregon runner this season. She is more than capable of claiming an individual title but SMA does not appear to be able to match the other two schools.
There are a number of individuals to watch as well with Gracie Todd of Sheldon being one to note. Gracie won a division of the Danner meet and she has a best time of 18:08. Claire DeVoe of Lincoln is noteworthy, if you look at time (17:51) or victories (Wilsonville, Chapman & Metro). She is more than capable of winning the race, if she has a good day. Kelly o ‘Neill of Lakeridge has run 18:13 and has won twice this fall aside from having placed tenth last year. Erin Gregoire of Beaverton has run 18:17 and can be expected to be in the mix as well as Karen Qu of Sunset & Sarah Hastings of Crater.
The 6A race has seen either Jesuit or Central Catholic win the title every year except last fall, when Crater made its jump to the division. Crater has pretty much kept its cards under the table this fall and are a little bit hard to gauge but with Jon Obeso and Neil Siebert near the front, they are a threat. Jon placed 7th last year & Neil 17th with Obeso being the top returnee, so it is hard to count them out of it. A look at the depth chart gives Jesuit a distinct advantage, because they have the numbers to absorb an off day from one of their members. David Leavy won Metro with 15:33, which is one of the top times in the state & he has Hunter McGuirk to back him up if needed. Sam Remington gives the Crusaders a solid third. While not quite as strong as Jesuit, South Eugene is pretty solid and they have up-front capability with Brian Einstad & Jack Wilson. Central Catholic is young and appears to be the team of the future but that is not to say that the future can’t be tomorrow. Their leader is Kyle Thompson, who has a number of victories to go with his third place finish at Palos Verdes. Kyle has run 15:26 and gets the nod as an individual and he also has a solid team. Sam Truax & Jordan Lanstrom will give able support along with a couple of freshman. On the one hand it is hard to count on male freshman, yet on the other they have no fear, which is always good for a harrier. The Rams certainly will provide an interesting X factor. Individuals to watch include Justin Rocereto of Southridge, who won at Chapman & was second at Metro, and Andre Walker of Grant won claimed the Three Rivers league title with 15:45. Beaverton has Hussein Mohamed and Dan Oekerman: Dan placed 8th last year. Ryan Jones of Southridge & Nathan Normo of Lake Oswego should be heard from as well.
Alisha Luna won the 4A race last year and would appear to be the overwhelming favorite. The two most likely suspects, should she have problems, are Sierra Brown of Hidden Valley and Katy Potter of Siuslaw. Both girls are well ahead of the rest of the field yet will have to have a very good day to push Luna. Siuslaw is not their usual self in the girls division, which should open the door for others with Sisters being the team with the best advantage to walk through it. Matthew Campbell and Mitchell Butler of Siuslaw have been close all season and normally are but a second apart each race. Campbell’s PR of 15:30 tops Butler’s by a second and those are the top two times of the season for the division. Zorg Loustalet is the defending champion and he has won at Yreka & at State of Jefferson but he lost to Paul Adams of Mazama at District. The Henley star has defeated Adams a number of times this season & their individual duel should be interesting on top of their battle with the Siuslaw duo. Jonathan Cornish of North Valley would be an interesting long shot in the division as an individual but the Siuslaw team would appear to be a divisional juggernaut and no long-shots need apply.
At the 3A division for girls it would seem as if Olivia Powell of Creswell (19:14) & Katriel O’ Reilly of Union (19:24) are top two runners. The male version of the race is another matter. Joseph Ewers of Central Linn has the best time going in with his 15:52 clocking but that hardly gives him a great margin for error. Not too far behind in time are a number of individuals, who should be in the title hunt. Hudson Eustace has run 16:04 and has triumphed at Marist & District. Zach Holloway, also from Central Linn, won at Silver Falls and has run 15:58 (Concordia), while Ryan Magg of Nyssa has run 16:08. Oregon Episcopal school can boast junior Nick Obletz, who was victorious at Tualatin where he defeated Hussein Mohamed & Dan Oekerman. Conner Garcia of Valley Catholic is yet another with a mark (16:16) that puts him squarely in the picture.
Good luck to all the teams and runners, as the season draws to a close for most. Safe travel to everyone, as well, including family and fans, especially with there being a football game in Corvallis.