Sweet Home runners post big PRs at XC districts

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home’s cross-country team finished its season Saturday, Oct. 28, at the district championships in Philomath, where the Huskies made some big strides, though they didn’t qualify anyone for the state championships.

Although the young Sweet Home runners weren’t yet at the level to compete with the leaders – this was the first year of running cross-country for all but one of the boys and about half the girls-it was a big day for most in terms of improved times.

“We had a really good meet across the board,” said Coach Dave Martin. “We had 20 athletes run, and 12 of them PR’d – 60 percent. Of the eight who didn’t, most were within 20 seconds of their PRs for this year.

Sweet Home’s top finisher was McKenzie Miller, who was eighth in the varsity girls race, finishing in 20:31.7, a PR by two-tenths of a second.

Philomath sophomore

Ana Candanoza was first, in 19:55.80, followed by junior Adele Beckstead of Philomath (20:00.60), junior Haley Butenschoen of Stayton (20:21.20) and sophomore Makaila Kuenzi of Cascade (20:25.30), who qualified for state as an individual by placing in the top five.

“McKenzie challenged herself to run with the top two Philomath girls, and fought like crazy to give herself a chance to get to state once she lost contact with the top two,” Martin said. “I was really proud of her race.”

The girls finished fifth with 105 points, behind Philomath (22), Stayton (64), Cascade (73), and Newport (97). Cross-country is scored by order of the top five finishers for each team, with the lowest score winning.

“Our girls scored fewer points than we were projected to,” Martin said. “It was a good way to end the season.”

For Sweet Home, Rylee Markell was 15th (22:35.20), followed by Natiyah Alters-Koenig, 24th in a season’s best 24:14.00; Peyton Markell, 32nd in a season’s best 25:03.80; and Amelia Sullens, 34th in a season’s best 26:27.30.

“For Rylee to run that good a time, basically running by herself, was phenomenal,:” Martin said. “Natiyah and Amelia looked very good the whole way in their races. They ran smart and even the whole way. Peyton ran a PR, but the time she missed due to injury earlier this year cost her.”

In the girls JV race, sophomore Delanie Pratt was 12th in 28:27.40, followed by junior Koharu Yasuda, 13th in 28:28.80, a PR, and freshman Noelle Helfrich, 16th in 29:24.90.

“Koharu ran a great race,” Martin said. “She ran ahead of the other two most of the way, challenging herself to run her best time. Delainie caught her on the homestretch. I was proud of the effort she put into running that big PR. Noelle is still dealing with illness; she ran well the first half and just wasn’t able to maintain it.

“On the girls side, Natiyah and Koharu both improved about 1½ minutes, with others in the 15-30 second range. I knew they were capable of that, but it’s still awesome to see them do it.”

On the boys side, Sweet Home’s seven finishers included six runners who are in their first season of cross-country, led by freshman Ryker Burr who was 13th in 18:56.90, a 2:05 personal best in his fourth race of an injury-impacted season.

“Ryker knows how to prepare himself,” Martin said. “He got himself mentally ready all week, and ran up to the level he expected of himself. He also lost a shoe about a mile into the race, and ran the last two miles with one shoe. I don’t know if he could have run faster, but it shows that he was unwilling to let anything get in the way of what he was prepared to do.”

Burr was followed by freshman Hunter Clark, 22nd in 20:06.50, a 20-second personal best.

“Hunter ran with/near Ryker for most of the first half, but when Ryker started to move up, Hunter ran a tough race where he was the rest of the way,” Martin said. “No one else on the team ran near him during the race, so he did a lot of solid work on his own.”

Next in for Sweet Home was junior Kasey Kast, 25th in 20:11.00, a 40-second PR, freshman Conner Spencer, 26th in 20:18.10, freshman Trent Harvey, 29th in 20:21.70, a personal best of 1:04, sophomore Jim Morgan, 31st in 20:32.40; and freshman Kason Koenig, 32nd in 20:42.90.

“Kasey and Trent ran really well; Kasey set the pace and Trent stayed with him as long as he could,” Martin said. “They moved up steadily throughout the race. Very few of the guys had their usual kicks on the track. I challenged them to run harder in the middle, and told them I didn’t care if they had a kick or even if them crawled the last part because they were spent. They took that to heart and ran the toughest races they have all year.

“The other three ran tough – they just weren’t at their best that day. But they fought and competed well.”

The boys were fourth as a team with 110 points, as Newport won the district title with 20 points, followed by Philomath (35), Stayton (86) and Cascade, which finished behind the Huskies with 114 points.

“The boys ran the best team race of the year,” Martin said. “The gap between No. 2 and No. 7 was 36 seconds. That’s so much better than we’ve done in any race the last two years. Also, the boys finished fourth, beating Cascade, which was projected to beat us based on best times coming in.”

Newport swept the top three spots, led by Finn Collson, who finished in 16:57.20, closely followed by Connor Brown (16:59.40) and Noah Larson (16:59.90), all juniors. Philomath sophomore Lukas Hernandez was fourth in 17:20.

In the junior varsity boys race, sophomore Cannon Klumph was fifth in 20:21.70, a 32-second PR, followed by sophomore Keagan Vogel in eighth (20:26.20, a PR of nearly three minutes, junior Christian Justham, 22nd in 25:53.10, junior Shayne Schuster, 24th in 27:02.10, and junior Boden Sayer, 25th in 26:24.20, a PR of nearly 1:45. The JV boys were fourth as a team.

“Cannon and Keagen ran together most of the way, and looked very competitive the whole way,” Martin said. “I was really pleased with their efforts, and with Boden’s big PR as well.

“Shayne and Christian are still dealing with leg injuries, which accounts for them not getting a PR. But they both ran very good races, which I think was about as fast as they could have run that day.”