Cross-country teams off to fine start at Newport Invitational

The Sweet Home boys and girls cross-country teams launched their 2007 campaign Saturday on the wind-swept Agate Beach in Newport with a fourth-place finish by the girls, out of a field of seven teams, and fifth place out of 12 teams by the boys.

“I was pleasantly surprised and pleased with what I saw,” Coach Billy Snow said of the girls. “Three of the five girls had never run in a varsity race.”

Both the boys and girls were second among 4A teams, finishing behind cross-country powerhouse Molalla in both races.

On the boys side, the Huskies lack a dominant front runner thus far, but Snow said the boys who did run were able to stay close enough together to improve the team’s placing.

“On the guys side, we did it with six runners,” he said, noting that senior Land Florek and sophomore Jayce Calhoon ran junior varsity race for various reasons. Both are expected to compete for the varsity in the future.

“Our top five were within a minute of each other. That’s how we’ll have to do it all year long. We just have to pack it in like that.”

Joe Deardorff of Central was the top finisher among Val-Co League runners, but senior Ramiro Santana (19:09, 19th out of 84 runners), junior Robert Callagan (19:15, 21st) and senior Brinden Sanders (19:30, 27th) finished close behind him.

The other varsity finishers for the Huskies were sophomore Byron Sanders (20:00, 36th), senior Dallin Holden (20:06, 40th) and junior Josh Rice (21:24, 59th), who was not feeling well during the race.

The race was run on the beach at low tide, but the wind from the north was powerful, gusting into the 40 mph range, which affected the runners, who had to run into the wind for half their races.

West Salem won the boys race, with 27 points, followed by Wilsonville (55), Crescent Valley (85), Molalla (102), Sweet Home (143), Central (159), Taft (165) and Newport (292), Lebanon (334) and Elmira (368). Central was missing one of its top runners, Javier Orozco, who is recovering from an injury, Snow said. He predicted Orozco will run in the low 17s if he can get in shape.

For the girls, senior Amanda Basham, in her first high school cross-country race, was first among the Huskies, finishing the 5000-meter course in 22:18, good for 14th place out of 58 runners. The rest of the varsity finishers were senior Ashley Danielson (23:24, 24th), freshman Carissa Swanson (24:33, 33rd), freshman Olivia Johnson (24:37, 34th) and sophomore Jill Mahler (25:54, 39th).

“Two of our girls were in the 23s or below,” Snow said, predicting that Justine Calhoon, who ran the 3000 junior varsity race, and Johnson and Swanson should all run in the 23s or better before long.

Crescent Valley won the girls race with 44 points, followed by Molalla (56), Corvallis (58), Sweet Home (144), West Salem (148), Elmira (174) and Lebanon (214).

Sophomore Jayce Calhoon was the winner in the boys junior varsity race, running the 3000 in 10:50. Florek was fifth, in a field of 109 runners, in 11:13, followed by Nikki Smith (11:40, 28th), Chris Thompson (12:32, 57th), Jon Lemar (14:54, 94th), Jakob Holden (15:02, 98th) and Dakota Nave (16:12, 102). The JV boys placed sixth out of nine teams (184 points), behind Molalla (fourth, 155) and Central (fifth, 161).

In an open race that was supposed to be a 3000, but turned out to be short after the turnaround pylon got moved following the official races, Dustin Collman ran what was estimated to be 11:18 for the 3000, followed by Coach Snow (11:27), Michael Simmonds (11:38), David Rinehart (12:21), and Conner Cunha (16:01).

For the JV girls, Justine Calhoon was eighth in a field of 94 runners, in 13:21, followed by Jenna Kistner (16:15, 62nd), Natasha Perry (17:25, 82nd), Taylor Rodgers (17:40, 86th) and Afton Rodgers (18:04).

The team will be back in action Thursday at Cascade, where the wind is expected to be lighter on a flat, fast course. The Huskies will host their own invitational Tuesday, Sept. 18, at Camp Tadmor. The races begin at 4 p.m.