Tired Huskies still turn in prime times at home XC meet

Scott Swanson

Sweet Home’s boys fielded a full varsity team for the first time in its 2023 cross-country season Saturday, Sept. 30, and the Huskies finished third in the first meet they’d hosted since the COVID year.

The course, which circled Community Chapel and the adjoining GB’s Trees, was one of the more challenging of the season for the Huskies and the eight high school teams that participated. In the middle school competition, Sweet Home Junior High hosted 11 teams from the mid-valley and as far away as Creswell and Lowell. The course included three steep hill climbs and two creek crossings, and winding sections of trail, which slowed runners.

“Overall, I thought we competed well,” Coach Dave Martin said. “I anticipated that times would be slower because of the creek crossings, hills, etc.”

Sweet Home’s top three finishers in the boys varsity race were freshman. Conner Spencer was the Huskies’ first finisher, running 12th out of 41 runners in 20:43.79. Kason Koenig was 16th in 21:07.03, followed by Hunter Clark, 18th in 21:13.30, with sophomore Jim Morgan 19th in 21:14.58. Junior Kasey Kast was 24th in 22:08.84, followed by sophomore Cannon Klumph, 25th in 22:25.19. Freshman Trent Harvey rounded out the finishers for Sweet Home with 29th place in 24:29.27.

In their first team finish, with their top five runners scoring, the Husky boys were third with 84 points, behind Monroe (26) and Centennial (34). “I really liked was how close those first four guys were in the varsity race,” Martin said. “We had four guys within 30 seconds of each other. That was the best team running we’ve had this year. If can get one more to join them, we’ll be in good shape. That’s what we’re trying to achieve, getting them to run together, to run close enough that they get better.”

Clark finished with a two-second PR in what was his first race in three weeks, the coach noted, adding that he appreciated the leadership exhibited by the freshman Spencer.

“Kudos to Conner Spencer. He’s the guy who pushes everyone in practice and races. I’m really happy with his progress.”

In the girls varsity race, East Linn Christian’s Daisy Lalonde, a junior who lives in Sweet Home, was first in 20:48.48, after losing a shoe in the final mile of the 5,000-meter race.

Sweet Home’s rising sophomore, Mckenzie Miller, did not compete, but senior Rylee Markell led the girls, finishing eighth in a field of 36 runners, in 23:28.55.

Junior Natiyah Walters-Koenig was 12th in 25:49.10, with junior Peyton Markell 13th in 25:24.49. sophomore Anabelle Morris was 18th in 27:49.09, just five seconds off her personal best, after missing a couple of races over the past weeks due to soccer injuries.

“Rylee Markell had a really good race,” Martin said. “It would have been faster, but she twisted her ankle in the second creek crossing. She probably would have been under 23 (minutes).

“Natiyah ran a really strong race and Peyton is closing in.”

The Huskies had place winners in both the JV races, despite running tired, Martin noted.

In the boys junior varsity race, junior Christian Justham finished third in a field of 13 runners, in 23:23.75, just ahead of teammate Keagan Vogel (23:23.07), a sophomore, both PRs on the tough course, Martin noted.

Junior Shayne Schuster was 10th in 31:10.47, followed by junior Jonathan Pointer, 11th in 31:24.25 and junior Boden Sayer (31:44.33).

In the girls JV race, junior Amelia Sullens (28:04.39 and freshman Noelle Helfrich (29:26.81) finished second and third in a field of six finishers led by Allison Glock of Mannahouse Academy of Eugene, who ran 18:01.20.

Junior Koharu Yusada of Sweet Home was the sixth runner in 32:49.53.

Martin noted that the future is looking bright for Sweet Home, given the performance of the Tiger runners in the middle school competition.

Evan Malabago of Sweet Home, an eighth-grader, was first in 13:26.09, just ahead of Jaron Brey of Oaklea (Junction City) (13:28.83), with Wes Goff of Sweet Home third in 13:36.49 in the field of 79 runners.

Eli Adams was 55th, in 18:43.99 for Sweet Home as well.

In the girls race, Seventh-grader Cassie Spencer was second in a field of 62 runners, in 13:01.90, just two-tenths of a second behind eighth-grader Anya Griffith of Central Linn (13:01.70). Eighth-grader Miley Richardson of Monroe was third in 13:03.70, two seconds ahead of eighth-grader Emma Whitton of Sweet Home (13:05.90).

Seventh-grader Kali Vogel was eighth, in 18:16.8.

“I expected those other two to be up there, but for Kali to be eighth, to be up that far after just two races, that was a surprise,” Martin said.

“We had some really strong finishes, which speak very well for our competitiveness coming down the road.”

Next up for the Huskies is the Paul Mariman Invitational at Philomath on Saturday, Oct. 7. The meet, as of early this week, included 25 high schools, including some of the top small high schools in the state, and 13 middle schools. Races start with the the middle school girls 3k at 11:30 a.m. High school races start with a JV girls 5k at 1 p.m., ending with an awards ceremony at 3 p.m.

The Philomath course is where the district meet will be held Oct. 28.