GRESHAM — The district meet is right around the Bend for the Hood River Valley cross-country teams, who competed in their final regular-season races on Wednesday at Centennial High School.
District lineups were set and personal records continued to fall as the Eagles gave everything they had to position themselves for the Oct. 25 meet at Drake Park — the site of last weekend’s Bend Cross-Country Classic.
“We will begin districts in sixth place, but we would like to move up,” said boys coach Rich Hedges, whose team earned 14 PR’s on Wednesday. “We can catch Redmond and maybe even Summit, but we are going to have to run our very best race.”
With that in mind, the Eagle boys ran a quality race at Centennial, placing three runners in the top 20.
Junior No. 1 Alex Jimenez continued to impress at Centennial, earning third place overall with a time of 16 minutes, 43 seconds. He was followed by juniors Jess and Chris Jennings, who ran 17:46 and 18:05, respectively.
Senior Fernando Ochoa was fourth at 18:19 (23rd overall); senior Graham Hay fifth at 18:31 (27th overall); junior Mat Foster sixth at 18:44 (31st overall); and senior Brian Crosswhite seventh at 19:08 (32nd overall).
“We’re a lot more focused than we were at the start of the season,” said Crosswhite, the team captain. “We’ve been training pretty hard the past few weeks, and that may have hurt us at a couple meets. But we’re all ready to go for districts.”
The boys lineup is officially set, with Jimenez leading the pack, Ochoa and the Jennings brothers right behind, and Hay, Foster and Crosswhite looking to crack the top five. In addition, sophomore Kevin Dye had an impressive run at Centennial (18:45) and will be the varsity alternate at the district meet.
“We really want to be in the top five this year,” Jess Jennings said. “We’ve improved a lot as a team this season, and we’re a lot more together than we used to be. Instead of going after each other, we’re pulling for one another now.”
Jennings explained that the camaraderie on the 2003 team is one of the Eagles’ strengths. And if they all come together at the right time, HRV could turn some heads in the IMC.
“Overall, our intense training schedule has benefitted us for districts,” he said. “We know what we have to do, but a lot of it is mental.”
The mental approach is something that the HRV girls have been working on all season.
Coach Kristen Uhler has run her team in junior varsity races for most of the year, with the hope that they would build confidence from winning races.
And while the Eagle girls have made tremendous progress this season, they will still be racing uphill at districts.
“Our goal is to stay focused through Homecoming week and not get too tired,” Uhler said. “We need to complete a few more key workouts and then start to prepare mentally. These girls have the vision of where they want to go; they just need to stay together.”
Still leading the way for the HRV girls is freshman Melissa Kauffman, who placed ninth overall in Wednesday’s varsity race with a time of 20:28.
Sophomore Janne Lucas was next in line at 22:10, while sophomore Jenna Fisher smashed her season PR to come in third at 22:49. Sophomore Jolie Hobbs was fourth at 23:40; sophomore Jennifer Jeffries was fifth at 23:45; and senior Caitlin Becker was sixth at 24:13.
“We’re all really excited about districts,” said Hobbs, who has emerged as one of the Eagles’ top seven over the past four meets. “Coach Uhler is going to work us hard for the next week, but we need it. Districts is only one week away.”
Joining Kauffman, Lucas, Hobbs, Fisher and Jeffries in the district lineup will be junior Komisa Schwartzel and sophomore Melissa Princehouse.
“I like the direction we’re heading in,” Uhler said. “And all of these girls have at least one more year to keep improving.”