Cross-country boys trail two Val-Co teams – barely; girls lead

The only thing that looks certain about the Val-Co boys cross-country district championships is that it promises to be a tight race to the finish among the league’s top three teams: Philomath, Central and Sweet Home.

That was the order they finished in Wednesday at the Elmira Invitational, on a fast course in a competition that included some of the state’s top teams in the field of 20 schools.

The Husky girls continued to run at the front of the league, placing eighth with 212 points, just ahead of Philomath in ninth (288).

Amanda Basham led the girls in 20th place (20:20) out of 147 runners, continuing her duel with Philomath’s Yessenia Alvarado, who edged her by a step to finish 19th (20:19). Basham, a newcomer to cross-country, was trying some new spikes and didn’t wear socks. She finished the race with bloody toes as the mesh on the spikes tore up her feet.

Still, she set a personal best on the flat, fast course at Veneta’s Country Fair grounds.

Behind her were Ashley Danielson (35th, 23:04), Olivia Johnson (40th, 21:17), Carissa Swanson (50th, 21:32), Justine Calhoon (76th, 22:55), Jill Mahler (78th, 23:00), and Jenna Kistner (116th, 25:00).

Central finished 12th in the girls race with 313 points and Newport was 13th, with 344 points.

Coach Billy Snow said the Huskies simply need to keep running the way they have all season if the Sweet Home girls are to qualify for state for the first time since1995 at the Val-Co district championships this Saturday, Oct. 27, at Philomath High School. Races start at 1:30 p.m.

“We have been consistent all year,” he said. “If we just run the way we’ve been running as a group, we’ll be fine. If we have somebody stumble along the way, especially one of our top four, that opens the door.”

All of them, with the exception of Mahler, established PR’s Thursday, Calhoon slicing a minute off her best time for 5000 meters after coming off a leg injury.

“She ran hard,” Snow said. “That was a great sign.”

The boys were led by Ramiro Santana, who finished 32nd in a field of 178 runners, nearly breaking the 17-minute mark with a time of 17:04. Martin Saldana of Central was the top Val-Co finisher, in 19th (16:52), followed by teammate Joe Deardorff (25th, 16:57) and Philomath’s Tyler Thomas (26th, 16:59). Between Santana and the rest of the Sweet Home boys were Philomath’s Louis Donadio (34th, 17:07) and Jeff Schreiner-McGraw (35th, 17:07), and Central’s Javier Orozco (41st, 71:12).

Brinden Sanders was second for the Huskies (47th, 17:21), followed by Jayce Calhoon (59th, 17:41), Byron Sanders (63rd, 17:45), Robert Callagan (67th, 17:48), Land Florek (77th, 17:58), Dustin Collman (83rd, 18:16), Josh Rice (84th, 18:17), Dallin Holden (95th, 18:38) and Michael Simmonds (139th, 20:15).

Santana, both Sanders brothers, Collman and Rice all posted personal-best times for the 5000-meter distance on the Elmira course.

Snow said that calculating the Huskies’ scores with only Philomath and Central in the race left the three teams separated by three points. Add Taft’s runners’ best times this season and the gap is five points.

“We have to do the same things we’ve been doing,” he said. “We have to break up the monopoly at the top, and we’ve been doing that. We have to bunch up. Our sixth and seventh runners are so key. The key is can we bunch up and can we get our nonscoring runners in front of somebody else’s scoring runner.”

To qualify for state on Saturday, Sweet Home must finish either number one or number two in the league. Besides the qualifying teams, the next four finishers who are not on the qualifying teams will go to state.

The wild cards, Snow predicted, will be Taft’s Kian Flynn and Trevor Hoagland. Flynn has run 17:08 and Hoagland’s best time is 18:10.5.

In a combined junior varsity race on Wednesday, the Huskies were led by Chris Thompson (61st, 20:48) followed by David Rinehart (83rd, 21:53), Alex Whitlow (97th, 22:47), Brad Pitts (102nd, 23:05), Jon Lemar (106th, 23:11), Dakota Nave (135th, 24:04), Taylor Rodgers (193rd, 27:28), Natasha Perry (194th, 27:29), Conner Cunha (197th, 28:21), Afton Rodgers (213th, 30:59) and Louise Wilcox (218th, 33:06).