Three weeks remain before the Intermountain Conference district meet, and the HRV cross-country girls are still trying to narrow the gap between themselves and No. 1 Christy Paul.
To help the team become more competitive in such a difficult district, fellow seniors Joyce Yang and Allison Byers are starting to take it upon themselves to lead a talented, but relatively young varsity team.
“Allison has been very consistent and Joyce is gaining a lot of confidence with every race,” coach Kristen Uhler said. “Both girls had huge PR’s Wednesday (at the PIL Crossover meet), and I think our workouts are beginning to pay off.”
Byers finished 29th with a time of 21:00, while Yang took 55th overall with a time of 22:20. The Eagles did not post a team time, as only three runners participated in the varsity race.
Another runner who has established herself among the team’s elite is freshman Brisa Jessup, who led the team Wednesday in the absence of Paul with a PR time of 20:15, good for 13th place overall. The Eagles will need her experience when Paul, Byers and Yang move on after the season.
“Brisa is a huge talent and is proving she has what it takes to be a team leader,” Uhler said.
Jessup and her freshmen counterparts Janne Lucas, Jennifer Jeffries, Christa Chandler and Jenna Fisher represent the future of HRV cross-country, and may help the Eagles tremendously at the Oct. 26 district meet.
“Our problem the past few races has been going out too slow,” Uhler said. “Running without Christy on Wednesday got the other girls to go out harder, and that resulted in huge PR’s.”
Paul is on a 10-day training cycle to prepare for district and state, and since she already ran with the team at last week’s Northwest Classic in Eugene, she chose to rest. After finishing second behind Erin Gray of South Eugene, Paul knows that she will be tested this year, and she elected to stay on track for her ultimate goal of defending her 4A state title.
“I think racing Erin took some of the pressure off Christy,” Uhler said. “Now she can focus on running an even 5:38 pace the rest of the way, and I know she’s capable of that. This is the first race this season that anyone has even been close to her, so she’s even more hungry now.”
Paul ran a 6:05-mile pace at the Northwest Classic for a time of 18:54. Jessup finished second on the team with a time of 21:55 (47th overall), while Byers finished 71st overall with a time of 22:41. Yang (23:58, 93rd overall) and Lucas (25:28, 106th overall) rounded out the varsity times.
The JV team is also beginning to pick it up in preparation for the district meet. Led by Fisher, Chandler, Caitlin Becker, Hannah Kingrey and Austrian exchange student Michi Aniwater, the Eagles appear primed for the stretch run.
Next up is the Summit Invitational on Oct. 12.