The Hood River Middle School cross-country program completed a successful “rebuilding year” with a strong showing at the Nov. 9 state meet at Sandy High School.
Eight runners competed at the United States Track and Field Association Junior Olympic state championships, and six of them qualified for the regional meet, which will be held today in George, Wash.
Leading the way for the Panthers team was seventh grader Ashley Braniff, who placed third in the Midget Division, which gave her a medal and a trip to regionals. Coach Traci Lucas said that Braniff’s third place was the highest individual state finish for the program in its eight years.
“We think Ashley could bring home a medal at regionals,” Lucas said. “She’s just been on fire, and hasn’t even tapped her potential yet.”
Also qualifying for regionals were fifth grader Boo Lucas, who took 10th in the Bantam division; seventh graders Elise Byers and Kari Hidle, who placed 19th and 24th in the youth division; Janne Lucas, an HRV freshman who placed 17th in Youth; and Jenna Fisher, another young HRV star, who placed 20th in the Intermediate division.
For the boys, middle-school district champ Alex Van Slyke finished 52nd in the Youth division, while sixth-grader Alex Zartler finished in the top 40 of the Midget division.
Van Slyke, a seventh grader, won the district championship two weeks ago at Sorosis Park in The Dalles, but because of an early birthday, he was placed in the youth division along with a group of high-school freshmen.