Although the leaves on the trees nearby are falling with abandon it seems hard to believe we are nearing the end of cross country’s first portion of the season. Of course for the exception of the gifted few, who can aspire to a trip to the sport’s Mecca of Foot Locker or those on strong teams, this will be the end of the 2012 harrier campaign. There have been numerous points of demarcation along the way but Saturday’s races will be the goal for bulk of the sport’s participants, although there is the additional perk of a trek to Border clash. Both Oregon and Washington have had interesting seasons, which have been highlighted by stellar quality, which makes thoughts of the upcoming duels most tantalizing.
Of all the races on Saturday at Lane Community College it is the 6A girls’ race, which is probably the most tantalizing. There is a wealth of talent, which is spread seemingly fairly evenly among the leaders. One can make a good case for a number of likely winners and this race could very well depend on how the race sets up or of course, who is on their ‘A’ game on Saturday. Last year the race came down to the final kick with Paige Rice claiming the laurels as Sara Tsai & Erin Clark finished close behind her. This year freshman Ella Donaghu from Grant has been added to the mix and all four girls are certainly capable as is Maggie Schmaedick of Sheldon. Paige naturally is the defending champion and she has been impressive this year with victories at Wilsonville & in the Mount Hood District. She placed second at Walters to Katie Knight from Washington and has seemingly has gotten stronger down the home stretch with her last two times being under 17:50. Sara Tsai won at Ultimook and at the Southwest District, while her losses have been second place finishes behind Alexa Efraimson at Pier Park, Foot Locker finalist Anna Maxwell of Danner and most noteworthy here to Donaghu at Concordia. Her last three marks have been under 17:45 with two in the thirties, so she too seems to be peaking at the right time. Clark trailed Tsai at Ultimook, Danner & Concordia as well as District, yet the former State champion in track should not be underestimated. Last but hardly least is Ella Donaghu, whose only loss was at the Danner. She scored at the Northwest Classic and at the Three Rivers District but her major triumph was at Concordia. The race is the most important of the group, especially with her record at Fernhill of 17:32 but Rice did not race that day, which would have added another element.
When the talent lines up the runners all have various options and a crucial element is the pace and who sets it. It is always a gamble to take the lead, yet it is also a major gamble to depend upon a kick. Tsai & Clark are at least comfortable running together but it does make room for debate. Maggie Schmaedick will be with the leaders as she usually is and she is getting stronger having missed a fair amount of last season. Depending upon the race scenario she could play a key role, if not actually pull a surprise. Not to be overlooked are Kelly O’ Neill, who has the experience of three other appearances at State behind her including last year’s fifth place finish, and Parkes Kendrick of Grant , who was a divisional winner at Wilsonville & placed 2nd at the Three Rivers. Kelly won a division at Wilsonville and at Seaside. Gracie Todd of Sheldon should also be in the mix and she won at the Pre-SWC meet, while others to watch are Charlotte Corless of Sunset, the winner at Canby, & Erin Gregoire of Beaverton, who went 1 -3 at Metro. Brooke Chuhlantseff of West Salem has been a bit inconsistent, yet when she is right the CVC champion is formidable. David Douglas freshman Kennedy Allen, who won a division at Danner, should also be near the front and capable of responding, when things develop.
The team race is intriguing and we’ll start with perennial power Jesuit, which will have Ellie Kallgren near the front. Kallgren was second at Metro & will be backed by Dylan Hite, who also should be reasonably close to the front. Their supporting cast is always a crucial aid and one of the group this year will be Megan Mullaney. Speaking of the Crusaders first should not suggest they are favored but their runners had not been listed and they can be expected to be in the midst of things even on an individual level. South Eugene is the defending champion and they have to be a force simply because of their duo of Tsai & Clark up front but they also can depend on Phacelia Cramer to hold up her part of the bargain, as she did last year. St. Mary’s Academy has looked strong all year and the entire team ran PR type races at District, which is a wonderful feeling heading into the big race. Ellen Patterson & Lacey Conner providing support the team has a dependable pack and the pack could be everything this year. Last but hardly least was Grant, which was expected to be very solid before Donaghu appeared on the scene. Her addition to Kendrick & her sister Piper makes them a reasonable bet as well. On Saturday I suspect it will come down to who can keep their pack the most intact like it often does and all four could have a say in the matter of title
The large school race for guys should see defending champion Kyle Thompson and Dan Oekerman of Beaverton out front. Kyle won the Mt. Hood league & placed third at Crystal Springs, while Oekerman is coming off a big win in the Metro with a time 15:14. Sheldon’s Jackson Darland has improved his racing substantially this season and the Marist winner is capable of surprising. Another to watch is Taylor Hybl of Centennial, who placed third in the Mt. Hood in spite of difficulties at the end. Jackson Haselnus of Barlow should also be in the mix, as should Julian Heninger of Lakeridge. The Central Catholic guys look tough to beat with a very solid stable of supporting runners, which includes Sam Lomax, Dante Dalla Gasperina & Jean Baptiste Tooley. The Rams would seem to have a solid edge over the competition but ever powerful Jesuit has enough horses to make things interesting, should the opening appear. Sam Remington, Hunter McGuirk, Brian McDavitt & Josh Sealand have all made strides lately, as has Tanner Smith of Lincoln on an individual basis.
With 5A having been broken away sadly from the 6A division Travis Neuman, the defending champion from Summit, is the man to beat. The winner of the Festival of Champions and the Oxford Bend meet will probably find his toughest competition coming from his team mate Eric Alldritt and Matthew Maton. Both usually trial close behind their leader and at least one fan has stated that we should look out for young Matthew. Their challengers, as in the team race, will be the guys from Hermiston. Jose Macias (Hermiston Invitational), Alejandro Cisneros (Hood River Invite) & Eduardo Juarez (CRC District) have all taken time beating each other and at District they were joined by Efrain Jaime, which makes them more formidable. The key to staying in the team race will be the fifth man more than likely. Cleveland’s Adrian Hinkle & Nabi Amin plus Franklin’s PIL winner Jackson Packham should also be in the mix as will their teams.
The 5A girls’ will not have the over-powering presence of Summit, which has featured Megan Fristoe & Alyssa O’ Connor the past few seasons. That leaves the door open to teams like Corvallis and even possibly Crescent Valley but the door is quite ajar & there is a wealth of possibilities. Marykate McGuire of Silverton has really stepped up her racing and it would not be surprising to see the Seaside & Mid-Willamette winner add a state title to her list of victories. Taryn Rawlings of Wilsonville has experience and the NWOC winner was second at State as a freshman. Piper McDonald followed her Storm teammates last year and the Trask & District winner has to be considered, as should Emma Wren of Cleveland and Sasha Gonzalez of Milwaukie. Grace Grim of Hood River defeated Maggie Coleman of Hermiston at District and both runners are capable of scoring well. Monica Anderson of Marist won her district defeating Malika Waschmann, who will lead Corvallis.
Alisha Luna has won the last two state titles and will be hard to top but Katy Porter of Siuslaw has really been coming on and could surprise. Of course her teammates could make things interesting in both 5A & 6A with Matthew Campbell & Mitchell Butler leading the charge. Campbell won at Woahink and at Mariman and Butler was close behind. Lately the duo has had matt Marbas joining the festivities making them very formidable.
Nick Obletz of Oregon Episcopal garnered fourth last year & is the top returnee at 3A. He has fared well against big school competition and would appear to be the one to beat. Still Dave Ribich of Enterprise placed 7th in the race last year and he should give Obletz a run for his money. Olivia Powell, the Molalla Invitational winner from Creswell returns to defend her title but should be challenged by Katriel O’ Reilly & McKenzie Evans of Union. Katriel won the Hermiston Invitational.
Just making it to the State meet can be daunting and it is a measure of success just to be here. There is so much quality that it is both easy to overlook someone and not surprising, if another rises to the occasion. Good luck to all runners and safe travel as we look forward to another banner meet.