Harriers show speed in final district tune-up

Scott Swanson

Of The New Era

It’s crunch time for the Sweet Home cross-country teams, but it could be a very sweet-tasting crunch if the Huskies can deliver like they have over the past few weeks at this Saturday’s district meet at Camp Tadmor.

The Huskies got their final tune-up last Wednesday, Oct. 15, at the 26-team Elmira Country Fair Classic in Veneta.

The Huskies showed some speed on the Elmira course, which is considered quite fast, with all but one Sweet Home runner among the boys and girls clocking a personal-best time for the nearly 5,000 meters. The course was reportedly about 60 meters shorter than the 5K distance, but most of Sweet Home’s times would likely still count as PR’s even with the extra distance.

The Huskies were running with some holes in their line-ups as the boys were missing Casey Keys and lost Dakota Keys and Joe Stroud, who had to drop out due to injuries, while the girls were missing Carissa Swanson and Sarah Hawkins.

Still, the Huskies edged Philomath, which was missing its top runner, Josh Seekatz, 212-217 to finish eighth and ninth. Central was fifth, with 177 points.

“It was a good day, overall, even though we were still missing some bodies,” Coach Billy Snow said.

Rob Callagan was the top finisher for the boys, running 17:11 to finish 19th out of 180 runners, just ahead of teammate Byron Sanders, who was 20th in 17:13.

“Robbie and Byron had a good race, particularly a good second half of the race,” Snow said, noting that although Central’s Javier Orozco (10th, 16:50) and Philomath’s Tyler Thomas (17th, 17:02) were ahead of the Huskies at the finish, Callagan and Sanders made up some distance on them over the second half.

Freshman Nick Hall, running his second varsity race, was third for the Huskies in 17:40 (46th overall), just under a minute faster than his previous best time of 18:36.32, set at Junction City two weeks before.

“Nick Hall had a huge race,” Snow said. “He knows now he can run with the big boys.”

Hall was followed by Jayce Calhoon (55th, 17:58), Jake Comstock (84th, 18:49), Chris Thompson (91st, 19:03) and Michael Simmonds (107th, 19:26).

Trevor Berrian of North Bend won the boys race in 16:02, while Sisters rode a sixth- and seventh-place finish by its top two runners to take the team title with 68 points, well ahead of second-place Roseburg (126) and Pleasant Hill (127).

Olivia Johnson was the girls leader, finishing ahead of all the Val-Co runners in her race to place 13th in 20:29, in the field of 141 runners. Jill Mahler was second for the Huskies, in 22:42 (56th), followed by Caroline Amendola (94th, 24:13), Natasha Perry (113th, 25:21) and Jenna Kistner (114th, 25:25).

“Olivia had a great race,” Snow said. “I told her she could easily run in front of Philomath’s girls and that’s what she did. The other person who had a great race on the girls side was Jill.”

Sophomore Chelsea Spencer of Sutherland was the girls winner in 18:49. Roseburg won the girls team title, with Marist second (122) and Central third (134). Sweet Home was 14th (340), behind Philomath in 12th (281).

Avery Shamek was the top finisher the Sweet Home junior varsity runners in a combined boys and girls race, finishing 11th in 18:28. Nikki Smith was next for the Huskies, in 27th (19:00), followed by Brad Pitts (69th, 20:42), Anson Davis (118th, 23:40), Conner Cunha (159th, 25:33) and Louise Wilcox (187th, 32:06).

For the Sweet Home girls, the challenge will be to end Philomath’s 28-year run as state meet qualifiers. Snow said Central looks like a sure winner with potentially five runners in the top 10 finishers, but if Swanson and Hawkins are back, the Huskies will be in a good position to challenge Philomath for league runner-up and the other trip to state.

“If we can get our fourth and fifth runners to move up on Philomath, that could be the difference,” he said. ” And how our sixth and seventh runners place will be very important.”

On the boys side, the meet looks to be a three-way battle between Sweet Home, Central and Philomath. Sweet Home won some early-season matchups against Central and Philomath, but in recent weeks, especially with some Husky varsity runners sitting out with injuries, the competition has become stiffer.

With districts looming, the players are getting serious.

Senior Joe Deardorff, a key player in Central’s district race last year in which the Panthers edged Sweet Home for a trip to the state meet, is back from an injury.

And Philomath introduced a brand new runner, Taylor Sabo, a junior who ran 17:35 for 43rd place at Elmira in his first cross-country race for the Warriors.

If Dakotah and/or Casey Keys is healthy by Saturday, their presence will bolster the Huskies’ effort to run not only for the district title but for a trip to state.

Like the girls, Snow said, the race could come down to how well not only the Huskies’ top five, but their sixth and seventh runners, can move up on the competition.

“Basically, it’s going to come down to who has the best day,” he said.

The Val-Co district meet starts at 10 a.m. Saturday at Camp Tadmor. Varsity girls run at 10:30 and varsity boys at 11 a.m.