Huskies run in a crowd at Seaside cross-country meet

The Sweet Home cross-country teams went to the granddaddy of Oregon cross-country meets and came away relatively unscathed and happy Saturday from the Seaside Three-Course Challenge.

The event, held at the Camp Rilea National Guard base north of Seaside, featured three races each for boys and for girls over courses labeled as easy (5,000 meters), moderate (6,000 meters) and hard (7,000 meters). The harder courses included sand hills and a mud pit. The Challenge featured some 100 high school teams, about a third of them from Washington, totaling more than 2,000 runners. Many of the teams, including Sweet Home, sleep in the military barracks overnight before running on Saturday, which contributes to the experience.

“I thought the kids ran well,” Coach Billy Snow said. “That’s a fun meet for us. We run hard and compete but we don’t worry about the team stuff. That’s for smaller meets where we match up with teams from our league.”

Only partial results from the meet were available on Monday night – the Seaside coach had mailed a complete set by snail mail, Snow said. He said he didn’t know how Sweet Home’s teams finished.

Byron Sanders, Rob Callagan and Nick Hall ran particularly well for the boys, Snow said, and Olivia Johnson and Carissa Swanson both finished in the top fourth of the girls hard course.

“The kids can’t wait for next year,” Snow said. “A couple of them told me they wanted to fast-forward to next year so they could do it again. They like it.”

Sweet Home Invitational

at Camp Tadmor

Sweet Home got its first look at the Val-Co League competition – all of it – Tuesday, Sept. 16, at their own Sweet Home Invitational at Camp Tadmor.

All five teams competed in the meet, which was held on part of the course that will be used for the district meet on Oct. 25. Tuesday’s meet included a steep, tough hill that will not be included in the district course, Coach Billy Snow said.

As it was, things looked good for both the Husky boys and girls. The boys won both the varsity and JV races and the girls varsity placed third behind a strong Central team and Cottage Grove.

“The kids had a great day,” Snow said. “I cautioned them not to get a big head.”

Byron Sanders led the Sweet Home boys with a seventh-place finish in 18:38, out of 79 runners, followed by Rob Callagan in eighth (18:42), Jayce Calhoon 13th (19:10.7), Dakotah Keys 18th (19:34) Nikki Smith 25th (19:56) and Casey Keys 39th (20:49).

Sweet Home finished with 71 points, followed by Pleasant Hill (88), Philomath (94), Cottage Grove (100), Central (139), Stayton (153), Cascade (156) Creswell (189), Taft (192), Elmira (230), North Marion (235), Newport (301) and Junction City (383).

Injecting that note of caution, Snow said Philomath was missing a “legit guy” who would have likely placed near Dakotah Keys. Central was also missing its top two runners, plus another.

“They’re still a team to be reckoned with,” Snow said. “But I told the guys we’re right in there with them. All we have to do is run together.

“Byron and Rob beat kids they’d never beat before. They’re running with confidence. ”

He said the Huskies still have to decide who will run number 5 and 6 or 7.

“If we can take our sixth or seventh guys and stick them in front of somebody, they could play a huge role,” he said.

In the girls varsity race, Olivia Johnson once again led the Huskies with a third-place finish in 23:16, a 17-second improvement over her time on the same course last year. Carissa Swanson was second for Sweet Home, in fifth place overall, in 23:39. Behind Swanson was Jill Mahler, 20th in 25:10, Jenna Kistner, 36th in 27:52, Caroline Amendola (39th, 28:12) and Sarah Hawkins (44th, 28:55).

Patricia Guterrez, a junior from Cottage Grove who has steadily become one of the best runners in the state, won the meet in 22:20, ahead of Stayton senior Emily Hendricks (23:09).

Central placed six runners in front of Kistner, Sweet Home’s fourth placewinner, on its way to a team score of 54.

“Central is looking good,” Snow said. “They had five before we had three in.”

Cottage Grove was second (77), followed by Sweet Home (84), Cascade (91), Elmira (106), Philomath (118), Taft (175) and Pleasant Hill (182).

“I thought the girls ran well,” Snow said. “Last week they got dusted by Cascade, who beat us by 60-some points last week. We beat them this week. That shows what happens if you run as a group, if you run your race.”

Snow said Kistner continues to show improvement, running “an incredible little race. She ended up running almost as fast as she does on a flat course. I think there’s some untapped potential there.”

He said the key to the Huskies being competitive is for their fourth through sixth runners, the sixth likely to be Natasha Perry, to move up closer to Mahler.

Perry was 19th in 17:43 for Sweet Home in the girls 3000-meter junior varsity race and Louise Wilcox finished 31st in 25:39.

Nick Hall led the Husky boys JV team to a win in the 3000-meter race, finishing fourth in 12:13.3, with Jake Comstock right on his heels in fifth (12:13.8), Michael Simmonds eighth (12:16.7), Joe Stroud ninth (12:35.1) and Avery Shamek 18th (13:11.7).

Non-scoring finishers for Sweet Home were Lorenzo Virgen (19th, 13:12.0), Chris Thompson (20th, 13:40), James Myers (24th, 13:21.3), Brad Pitts (36th, 13:51.3), Alex Whitlow (57th, 15:17.0), Anson Davis (67th, 15:45.5) and Conner Cunha (81st, 18:24.3).

The Huskies edged Pleasant Hill by one spot, 43-44, followed by Cottage Grove with 78 points, Central (96), Philomath (101), Stayton (153) and Cascade (155).