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Cross-country teams struggle in district tune-ups

BEND — Seeking to maintain even ground with the other Intermountain Conference runners before the Oct. 26 district meet, the HRV cross-country teams took to the course against the Northwest’s best last Saturday in Bend.

Mead, Snohomish, Jesuit and South Eugene high schools were all represented at the Summit Invitational. But, unfortunately for HRV, so were Hermiston, Bend and Mountain View.

The Intermountain Conference is home to many of the Northwest’s best teams and individuals, making the Eagles’ trip to Bend a possible preview of what may take place in two weeks.

“This meet was a who’s who in high-school cross-country,” boys coach Rich Hedges said. “You’ve got the defending state champs from Washington (Mead of Spokane) and all the powerhouses from Oregon as well. We needed our best performance to finish among the top 10.”

Hedges said it also gave his runners a chance to see what they could expect out of one of the most highly competitive conferences in the state.

“We didn’t run that bad, but it wasn’t the way we needed to if we’re going to compete in two weeks,” he said.

Hedges’ team of Jon Gehrig (60th), Alex Jimenez (71st), Jess Jennings (95th), Jeff Fisher (97th) and Chris Jennings (120th) finished 17th out of 24 teams.

But the good news is, they also finished ahead of three IMC schools —Crook County, Summit and Redmond — without the help of senior co-captain and No. 4 runner Eric Avila.

Jon Wherry (144th) and Graham Hay (147th) rounded out the varsity spots, while Brian Crosswhite, Kevin Dye and Joseph Broschart turned in the best JV performances.

“No one was really running at their peak on Saturday,” Hedges said. “The course was really sandy and dusty. I think some guys were just happy when it was over.”

On the girls side, only two varsity runners took to the course. Defending state champ Christy Paul continued her gradual training program to gear up for the district and state meets, while freshman front-runner Brisa Jessup earned some valuable racing experience going up against the elite field.

“The light is starting to come on for Brisa,” coach Kristen Uhler said of Jessup, who finished 54th (21:43) in a field of more than 150 runners. “She is working harder in practice and paying more attention to her split times. We’ll continue to see tremendous improvement as she gains more confidence.”

Paul will also be looking for an added confidence boost before state after she finished second behind South Eugene’s Erin Gray (18:48) for the second race this season.

“Christy tried a different strategy this time by sitting behind the leaders (at the start),” Uhler said of Paul, who clocked in at 19:21.

“But at 400 meters, it was already a two-person race. We’ll probably stick with the ‘hard and fast’ approach to try to burn out the other competitors early.”

Part of the reason the girls weren’t at full strength on Saturday was that seniors Allison Byers, Joyce Yang and Emily Meyer were taking the SAT in The Dalles. Two senior JV runners, Hannah Kingrey and Raemi Lucas, also traded in their racing spikes for pencils on Saturday, leaving the JV race in the hands (or feet) of the team’s future stars.

Freshman Jennifer Jeffries returned from illness to place 29th overall, while Jenna Fisher took 36th overall and Christa Chandler 68th overall. Junior Caitlin Becker was third on the team in 53rd place.

“We push the girls through so much pain in practice, and they’re starting to realize that they really can do this,” Uhler said.

Both the girls and boys cross-country teams competed Tuesday at Sandy High School, but results were not yet available.

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