Christy Paul may only be a junior, but she's battle-tested.
The Hood River Valley cross-country star has already earned her stripes among the high school ranks, winning last year's Oregon state championship, but she only wants to get better.
Chalk up another victory.
Paul set a new 5K course record at the Steens Mountain High-Altiÿtude Running Camp in southeast Oregon last week, finishing the all-uphill race in 25 minutes, 7 seconds and leaving many of the state's top high school runners -- including a few college-age counÿselors -- in the dust.
"The camp was really challengÿing," Paul said, "really rugged."
The annual camp is designed for elite cross-country and disÿtance runners, and allows campÿers to enjoy an authentic wilderÿness experience while they run, hike and explore the high altiÿtudes of the Steens Mountain arÿea.
The 5K race was just one event in a series of competitions beÿtween boys and girls tents, each with 18 runners.
"In one race, we had to run 3 miles uphill through sagebrush where there was no marked trail," Paul said. "You couldn't even see the end, and if someone on the team fell, we all had to help them up and finish the race together."
Other HRV girls participating in this year's camp were Caitlin Becker (sophomore) and Emily Meyer (junior). The boys repreÿsentatives were Jon Gehrig (junÿior) and Scott Becker (senior).
Steens Mountain camp offers group and individual instruction in all areas of distance running, with emphasis on performance improvement through motivaÿtional and self-image enhanceÿment strategies. Campers must be willing to adapt to the lack of urban conveniences not found in the outdoors.
"They tried to break them down both mentally and physicalÿly," said HRV cross-country coach Kristen Uhler, who attended the camp along with the runners and assistant coach Rich Hedges.
"The idea is to go beyond what you think you're capable of," she said.
With basecamp residing at a mere 8,600 feet and a 30-mile "orÿientation run" on the second day, this five-day camp no doubt pushed each runner to his or her limit.
Christy Paul included -- alÿthough she admits to having run every day since camp ended. Asked if she would return next year, she said, "It's sort of a one-time experience -- like a small-scale boot camp."
Now that she's gone through boot camp, she's ready for war -- against the Mt. Hood Conference, that is.