Locals finish Hood/Portland to Coast relays

A group of Sweet Home women, the Valley Girls ran a total of 197 miles this weekend in the Nike Hood to Coast Relay, one of the longest relays in North America.

The course of Hood to Coast winds from the slopes of Mount Hood to the Pacific Ocean’s edge in Seaside, provided an array of obstacles for each participant.

A total of 1,000 teams started the race early Friday morning on Aug. 28 finishing the following day. The Nike Hood to Coast Relay has attracted thousands of runners, leaving a soft spot in each participant’s heart each year.

“I’d do it again in a heartbeat,” said Valley Girl Teena Collman, 35. “I’m exhausted, but it was amazing and I’m ready for next year.” Despite getting sick during her third and final leg, Coleman says she can’t wait to do even better next year.

The Valley Girls competed in the Women’s Open Classic with a finishing time of 29:40:03, earning an overall placing of 698 out of the 1,000 teams and 12th out of 26 in their division.

Also held during the same weekend was the 127 mile High School Challenge Relay, which began near the Hawthorne Bridge in downtown Portland.

The Sweet Home boys team competed under the name “Back of the Pack,” finishing fifth out of 12 in their division and sixth out of 39 overall, with a time of 15:10.

Team Captain Nikki Smith, 18, said it was stressful at times with one member of the team dropping out of the race due to a recovering broken ankle and another runner who wasn’t able to get off work in time.

Smith said he had some proud moments, watching the members of his team grow together. Andrew Winslow, a soccer player who stepped in for another runner on the team, had never competed in distance running before and told Smith he has a new respect for runners.

Daniel Caldwell, an incoming freshman in high school this year, finished his legs with a look of “determination on each of his exchanges,” said Smith. “It felt good knowing they ran it for me and each other and not just themselves. It was a lot of fun. It felt like we were a family and not just a team.”

The girls Portland to Coast team, the Dyeing Breed, captained by Carissa Swanson, 16, finished in 20:06:56, in third place out of the 12 teams in their division and 36th out of 59.

Jenna Kistner, 16, said she had improved a lot over last year, when she ran Portland to Coast for the first time, and joked, “I’m not afraid to run in the dark any more.”

After months of dedication and perseverance, the music and excitement of the crowd at the beach party behind the finish line was well worth the effort in the end.

“It was great coming across the finish line with everybody,” Collman said.