Sara Tsai looks to defend her title
Saturday’s race will offer fans an opportunity to see top flight racing and a chance to see runners who one would normally have to travel many miles to catch in action. The event also offers the hills of Fernhill Park instead of the often race-track design for the rankings and it therefore is a truer test of a harrier’s ability. Better yet, there will be a large field to spur competition. With that in mind let’s take a look of some of the fine runners, who will be racing in Portland.
One of the most alluring aspects of this rather young race is the fact that it has always drawn some of the finest runners from Alaska, who extend their season two weeks beyond their State meet to compete here. Since its inception in 2005 our racing brethren from up north have made their presence felt. In 2005, the first year of the race, Crystal Pitney of West Valley challenged Claire Michel of Clackamas before heading into the chute to take second in 17:58. Claire, as many know, went on to a fine career at the University of Oregon. Incidentally Jennifer Macias of Hermiston, who went on to be one of the key foundations of the OSU program, placed third. The next year Leah Francis of Juneau-Douglas established a record of 17:42, which stood until last fall, when Sara Tsai of South Eugene ran 17:41. Trailing Francis in second was Casey Masterson of Sheldon, who went on to star for OSU, so this meet had a quality field from its inception. In 2010 Jenette Northey and Molly Callahan made their presence felt by placing 3rd & 6th respectively and they are a special story in their own right. Of course the Alaskan male runners have contributed mightily to the race’s special history for Trevor Dunbar of Kodiak, who was but a sophomore at the time, appeared to be the runaway winner in 2006 before Taylor Morgan put in a memorable finish to catch him near the end. Dunbar returned as a senior and before he placed second at Foot Locker nationals, he obliterated the course record with a blazing 14:47. Dunbar naturally is well known in Oregon for his collegiate efforts at Portland & for the Ducks. In between Dunbar’s visits Jake Parisien placed second to Bryce Burgess of Franklin. Silas Talbot contributed as well to the meet’s history with his third place effort in 2010 and Dylan Anthony was 5th in 2009.
With the Alaskan contributions in mind we’ll take a look at this year’s entrants from up north, which offers much in challenging competition. Oregon harriers will face the top three finishers from the Alaskan large-school division with Kodiak’s Levi Thomet & Cole Christiansen leading the way. Thomet is not only the State title holder but also the winner at the Bartlett & Skyview Invitations. Christiansen has followed right behind his team mate in every race, save the Kodiak Invitational, where he reversed the decision. Kodiak also boasts Julian McCarthy, who placed 7th at State. West Valley (Fairbanks) features Peter Noon, who finished 3rd at State and was also the Region VI winner. Aside from Noon WV also has the services of Tristan Sayre & Erich Hoefler, who placed 6th & 11th at State respectively. The guys from Service placed second as a team and they are led by Gilly Szweda-Mittelstadt, who finished 5th at State. Their runners Lucas Schlemme & Lucas Hepler should also be in the mix. Palmer’s top runner is Sean Herrman, who placed 16th at State. Alaskans should also make an impact on the distaff side with Lathrop runners Brooke Lizotte (3rd at State) & Megan Kubichek (4th). Brooke won the Interior & Delta Invitationals. West Valley will be led by Dorothy O’Donnell. We look forward to our old friend Jenette Northey of Service, who will make her third appearance at Concordia. As noted Jenette placed third here two years ago and that was after a rather bizarre State meet, which credited her with only second, although under normal rulings, she would have been first. Jenette had an off day at State placing tenth but she was 2nd at Skyview. The Alaskan State meet was held at Bartlett trails, which is known for its challenging hills, so the Fernhill course will seem easy to them. Their biggest challenge will be their opponents, as the Palmer guys had the quote of the day last fall, when they stated I’d “rather face a moose than these pushy Oregon guys.”
Brooke Lizotte placed 3rd in Alaska
There will be three teams from California racing on Saturday and Etna’s John Whelan should be a challenger. Whelan placed 4th at the Northwest Classic and won the Yreka Invite as well as the State of Jefferson Invite. Austin HS from El Paso, Texas will feature Keelan Rankin, who finished 2nd at the Kidd Invitational. The State of Washington will feature formidable competition and has a history of success too, as Priscilla Timmons of Skyview won here in 2010. This year Alexa Efraimson of Camas has made waves on a national level placing second at the huge Stanford Invitational, where she defeated all the Californians, and winning at the Run-A-Ree and at Pier Park. Her team mates Alissa Pudlitzke & Camille Parsons should also place well. Union features Alexis Fuller, who placed 2nd at the Run-A-Ree and 3rd at South Whidbey. Sara Taferre of Skyview should also be in the mix. For the guys Colby Gilbert is coming off a big victory over Mark Tedder and he triumphed at Trask. Henry Jackson has a strong team and the guys are ranked 5th in the State. Aaron Row is the leader & he placed 2nd at Capital and was tenth at Stanford. HJ also features Jason Wilson, who was 19th in the huge Stanford field. Andrew Kaler of Camas finished 2nd at the Run-A-Ree. Saving Washington’s major male force for last we turn to two-time Foot Locker national finalist Andrew Gardner of Mead, who destroyed his own course record this fall at Mountain West. He will be tough to beat, if he is on his ‘A’ game.
Defending the Oregon turf is a stellar field with the gals being lead by the stellar squad from South Eugene. Sara Tsai & Erin Clark placed 2 – 3 at State last fall and they have not let up this year with Tsai claiming the Ultimook Invitational and then taking 2nd at Danner behind Foot locker finalist Anna Maxwell. Clark normally is right with Tsai & at Danner she was third in the field. Also look for Phacelia Cramer of the Axemen to be in the mix. Two-time 4A Oregon champion Alisha Luna, who won the Pre-Skyline meet should also battle for the lead, while Summit has Piper McDonald, who was first at Trask. Not to be overlooked is the powerful squad from Grant, which held their top runners out on Wednesday for a premier effort here. The General lead with freshman Ella Donaghu, who was victorious at Wilsonville, the NW Classic & was 4th at Danner. Grant also boasts the services of Parkes Kendrick & Piper Donaghu. Another runner to watch is MaryKate McGuire of Dallas, who has shown marked improvement this year including a victory at Seaside. Not to be overlooked are Kelly O’ Neill of Lakeridge & Tess Michaelson of Lincoln plus Maggie Coleman of Hermiston. Gracie Tostenson of Crater recently scored at the State of Jefferson meet in Ashland. Jenna Mattox could also be a factor but she has run in the other varsity race the past two years. Sasha Gonzalez of Milwaukie will also probably fare well in the other division.
Travis Neuman will go for another win
The Oregon guys will look to Travis Neuman, who won this race last fall with a fine time of 15:16. Travis has claimed the Festival of Champions and the Oxford Bend Invitational this year. Seemingly always immediately behind him are Matthew Maton & Eric Alldritt and tomorrow should be similar. Maton was victorious in the Northwest Classic, while Aldritt won his division at the FOC. Hermiston will also bring its trio of challengers, which includes Jose Macias, the Hermiston Invitational winner, Alejandro Cisneros, the Hood River Invitational winner, plus Eduardo Juarez, who ran well at Richland last weekend. Siuslaw may be a 4A team but they have a very solid line-up, which is led by Matthew Campbell , who won at Woahink & was 2nd at the Festival of Champions. Mitchell Butler, also from Siuslaw, placed 2nd at Woahink. Nick Obletz of Oregon Episcopal is having another fine season and he has won his own school’s invite & also placed second at Tualatin. Jackson Darland of Sheldon is another runner, who has come on this season and he has won at Marist and placed third at Danner. David & Jonathon Cornish of North Valley have credits, that include a victory at the pre-Skyline Meet & a, third at the Northwest Classic , Danner & at the State of Jefferson (David), while Jonathan placed 2nd at the State of Jefferson . Franklin always seems to have a quality runner & this year it is Jackson Packham, who placed 2nd at Hood River and then won the PIL Preview. Julian Heninger of Lakeridge is another runner to watch and he has scored at Seaside & a division at Wilsonville. Brett Willyard won at Molalla but was tenth in his school’s invite & we look to him to rebound.
There is much to like about this meet and apologies to anyone I’ve slighted by overlooking here. Hopefully the weather will cooperate but, if the stars are aligned correctly, this should be another memorable edition. Good luck to all the participants and, while you are at it, throw in your own personal record.
Jenette Northey will return to Concordia