Coming into the season, the HRV girls cross-country team knew it belonged among the state’s elite.
Now, after taking seven of the top 27 places (out of 58 runners) at the Oct. 24 district meet in Gresham, the girls will have a chance to prove it.
Led by Christy Paul's course-record time of 17 minutes, 56 seconds, the Eagles are headed to state -- a goal they have been shooting for since last summer, if not the end of last season.
"We're ecstatic!" coach Kristen Uhler said. "We made it, and we ran better against Centennial than the previous week. We tapered, rested and did our mental work for this race, and it really showed."
Hood River totaled 62 points to place second out of eight Mt. Hood Conference schools -- just 14 behind district winner Centennial, and 15 ahead of the other top MHC contender, Barlow.
The Bruins made the race interesting by placing three runners in the top seven, but each HRV runner did her part to prevent Barlow's fourth and fifth runners from becoming a factor.
Laurissa Pennington overcame a sprained ankle suffered last week to place 10th overall with a time of 20:21. Allison Byers also ran a superb race, taking 13th overall at 20:41.
Emily Meyer reclaimed her place among the team's top four, clocking in at 21:04 for 16th overall, while Suni Davis (21:15, 22nd overall) and Kristen Hedges (21:16, 23rd overall) crossed the finish line side by side.
Jenny Villagomez wasn't far behind in 27th place at 21:36, showing how far she has come this season, and what can be expected of her next season.
"The strategy is to pack up at the front, and we did a good job of that Wednesday," Uhler said. "It's a big advantage to have a No. 1 runner (Paul) because it's like our four versus the other teams' five."
Paul shattered the previous course record of 18:10 by running 5:39 the first mile, 5:46 the second mile, and 6:26 for the final 1.1 miles (the 5K course equals 3.1 miles).
She has outrun the competition by almost one minute at each race this season, making her one of the favorites to win the state individual title.
"Christy"s going for a state championship," Uhler said. "She's posted the fastest times in the state this season, and she's ready."
Paul and the Eagles will put everything on the line at the state meet Nov. 3. Uhler said the team is shooting for the top 10.
The girls junior varsity team also had a strong showing at districts, with three runners in the top 15. Caitlin Becker and Chelsea Nance led the way for HRV in fifth and sixth places, respectively.