“Really good day” for Sweet Home Husky cross-country

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home’s young cross-country team had a “really good day” at their season-opening Ultimook Race in Tillamook Saturday, Sept. 2, Coach Dave Martin said.

“The meet went pretty well, as far as people’s places went and as far as Andrew (McIntyre, assistant coach) and I thought they were capable of,” Martin said. “I’m very pleased.”

Sophomore Mckenzie Miller had the best finish of the day, running 18th out of 186 runners in her varsity meet in 22:05 on the 5000-meter course that included a deep mud pit and two river crossings held at the Hydrangea Ranch outside Tillamook.

“That’s her second-fastest time of her life,” Martin said of Miller, who ran 21:50 to place 10th at last year’s district meet, on a much faster course. “She’s starting off right now basically where she left off last year. To begin the season this way is phenomenal. She had, by far, the best girls race.”

But she wasn’t the only Husky to run well, he noted.

Junior Natiyah Walters-Koenig finished in 26:31, a “really strong race,” in the varsity race, which was on the same course that most of the JV runners ran. The Ultimook Race is a giant affair, drawing close to 100 high school teams from all levels, from both Oregon and Washington, and close to 20 junior high teams.

Finishing ahead of Miller from the Oregon West Conference were four Philomath runners led by sophomore Ana Candanoza, who was third (20.26.0).

In the boys varsity race, freshman Ryker Burr was Sweet Home’s top finisher, 125th in a field of 258 with a time of 21.38.6, followed by sophomore Jim Morgan, 166th in 22:53 and freshman Conner Spencer, 178th in 23:37.

Out of the Oregon West, both Newport and Philomath placed their top five runners ahead of Sweet Home’s in the varsity race.

Martin noted that of the boys, only Morgan had ever run a cross-country race before and some did not have a lot of mileage under their belts coming into the race, so he decided to put some of his inexperienced runners into the JV race.

Freshman Kason Koenig responded with the fastest time of the day for Sweet Home, finishing 19th in the field of 171 runners, in 21:22, followed by freshman Hunter Clark, 45th in 22:08.8, and freshman Trent Harvey, 63rd in 22:54.

“I wasn’t sure how good he was going to be,” Martin said of Koenig, who ran the best time of the day over the 5000-meter distance. “Man, he ran so well. He had a faster time than Ryker and Jim.

“Out of the six guys who ran the 5K, our JV’s ran our first-, third- and fifth-fastest times. Guess who’s not the smartest coach,” the coach joked. “We’ll see what happens in the weeks to come.”

In the girls JV 5000 race, junior Amelia Sullens, who is doubling with cross-country and soccer for the second year in a row, was 24th out of 79 runners, in 27:43, followed by sophomore Annabelle Morris, who is also doubling but competing in cross-country for the first time, 25th in 27:43, and sophomore Delanie Pratt, 40th in 30:06.

Junior Shayne Schuster, one of Sweet Home’s top boys in swimming, is also running cross-country and finished the 3000-meter Novice race in 14:45. Sophomore Rylie Hollingsworth ran the girls 3000 Novice race in 19:37.

Martin emphasized that his team is largely new to the sport, so he’s excited about what they were able to accomplish in what, for 13 out of the 17 Sweet Home runners Saturday, was “their first cross-country race ever.”

“The only kids who had run a cross-country race before were Jim Morgan, and on the girls side, Amelia, Natiyah and Mckenzie.

“I told them, and it’s worthwhile to note, that we are essentially are at mid-season of last year as far as times,” he said of the Ultimook results. “This team is already faster than last year’s team. I have five freshman boys who ran a 5K for their first race and handled it really well. They were phenomenal.”

Martin is also re-starting the club program at Sweet Home Junior High and had three runners at Ultimook, who also had their baptism in the sport.

Incoming seventh-grader Cassie Spencer was eighth out of 86 runners in 12:43 on the 3000-meter middle school course and eighth-grader Emma Whitten was right behind her, ninth in 12:48 after leading the pair for much of the race.

Evan Malabago, an eighth-grader-to-be, was 43rd out of 136 runners in 13:24.

Next up for Sweet Home is the Stayton XC Invitational on Saturday, Sept. 16, which will be held on the Stayton Middle School Nature Trail. Middle school races start at 9 a.m., followed by the JV and varsity high school events. All the Oregon West schools with the exception of Newport are expected to be at the event, which has 28 teams scheduled to participate at the high school level and 12 middle school teams.

Although some Sweet Home runners have trained through the summer, Martin is continuing to accept new runners both at the high school and middle school levels, who want to participate. For more information, contact him at (541) 279-9898 or by email at [email protected]. There is no fee to participate.