New talent gains experience in Sweet Home Cross Country

Scott Swanson

Sophomore Mckenzie Miller was Sweet Home’s top finisher at the Stayton XC Invitational Saturday, Sept. 9, at the Stayton Middle School Nature Trail.

That venue has the potential to be a fast course but with 27 teams competing Saturday, the narrow spots on the trails, where runners are forced to go single-file, proved to be challenges to runners who weren’t in front, Coach Dave Martin said.

That Stayton course will be the venue for districts on Oct. 28.

“Most of our kids ran strong, competitive races even though times weren’t as fast as last week (at the Ultimook race in Tillamook),” Martin said of Saturday’s performances.

Miller finished 16h in a field of 96 runners, running 22:12 on the 5,000-meter course.

Senior Rylee Markell, running her first race of the season, was 44th in 24:36, followed by junior Natiyah Walters-Koenig, who was 76th in 27:18.

Philomath, which is already shaping up to be the league favorite on the girls side, placed its five scoring runners ahead of Miller as the Warriors won the team title over eight schools that were able to field at least five runners.

“Philomath is legitimately one of best teams in state on the girls side,” Martin said of the Warriors, who were second in state last year.

Junior Daisy Lalonde of East Linn Christian, a Sweet Home resident, was the girls winner in 19:06, followed by Artana Nice of North Eugene (19:41) and sophomore Ana Candanoza of Philomath (20:20).

“Mckenzie ran really well,” Martin said. “She was behind five Philomath girls and one Cascade girl. She’s tough and she’s running well. To run that well on that kind of course was really good.

“Rylee looked strong the whole way, really good,” he said of Markell, who is doubling with cross-country and soccer and just got cleared to run after coming off an injury.”

Walters-Koenig, he noted, ran about two-thirds of the 3.1-mile race with mud in her eyes following a stream crossing .

“She ran about as fast as she was capable of that day. She’s ready to bust one out,” Martin said.

The three freshmen who ran the boys varsity race turned in the best performance of the day, he said.

Kason Koenig was the Huskies’ first finisher, 58th in the field of 112 runners in 20:57, about 30 seconds faster than he ran the previous week at Tillamook.

Immediately behind him was Conner Spencer, 59th in 20:58, which was about a 2½-minute improvement over his Tillamook time, and Hunter Clark, 61st in 21:15.

Leo Pausch of Philomath was tht top Oregon West finisher, fifth in 18:16.

Sweet Home put five runners in the 3,000-meter JV boys race, enough to place 12th behind Stayton (10th) and Philomath (11th).

“It’s nice to have three freshmen boys, who haven’t run cross-country before, competing well,” Martin said of his runners. “They’re challenging each other. They’re headed in the right direction.”

In the 3,000-meter boys JV race, junior Kasey Kast was 70th in the field of 136 runners, running 13:35, followed by sophomore Cannon Klumph, 83rd in 14:00; junior Shayne Schuster, 106th in 14:51; sophomore Keegan Vogel, 113th in 15:23; and junior Boden Sayer, 134th in 17:27.

They finished 12th in the team standings, immediately behind Stayton and Philomath.

“We don’t look overly impressive right now, but for four of our five guys in that race, this was their first cross-country experience, so it was a chance for them to learn what it was about.

“The best race out of the five was Shayne. He ran almost as fast as he did at Tillamook on a day when hardly anybody ran as fast as their Tillamook times.”

In the girls JV race over the same course, sophomore Delanie Pratt was 41st out of 76 runners, in 16:45, and sophomore Rylie Hollingsworth was 67th in 20:58.

“I was really pleased with Delanie’s race,” the coach said. “She looked strong.”

Three Sweet Home Junior High runners competed in the middle school 3000 race.

Seventh-grader Cassie Spencer finished first in the field of 42 girls, followed closely by teammate Emma Whitton, an eighth-grader in 13:26.

In the boys race, eighth-grader Wes Goff was 20th in a field of 55 runners, in 14:21.

“They ran together whole way from first 500 meters, Martin said. “They were ahead of the third-place runner place by 30 seconds. They were very impressive. They went to the front and they ran smart.”

Up next for Sweet Home, which is still encouraging new runners to join the program at both the high school and junior high levels, is the Oregon City Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 16. High school races begin at 11:30 a.m., with a combined middle school 3000 race at 2:30 p.m.