Three Eagles qualify for state

November 2, 2005

Under the bright blue high-desert skies of Prineville and with the weather in full cooperation for the afternoon, the Intermountain Conference district cross country meet brought together hundreds of varsity and junior varsity runners at the campus of Prineville High School for 3.1 miles of all-out exhaustion.

Hood River runners Leo Castillo, Erin Jones and Melissa Kauffman prolonged the bittersweet pain of training and competition for another week by qualifying for Saturday’s state meet in Eugene. For the rest of the Eagles, the burning in their legs and lungs ended for the season at the crowded finish line.

In cross country, the top two boys and girls teams to finish at districts, as well as the top seven individuals, advance to the state meet. Hood River’s varsity girls finished fourth and the varsity boys fifth, marking a decent end to both teams’ seasons.

Sophomore Leo Castillo ran a personal record time of 16:07, to finish third overall out of 63 varsity runners. For the girls, Erin Jones finished fourth in 18:34, followed by Melissa Kauffman in sixth at 19:18. Ashley Braniff missed the cut by three places, finishing 10th overall out of 63 varsity girls.

Although only three runners qualified for state, coaches Rich Hedges and Kristen Uhler were excited about the entire team’s performance.

“I am very proud of the team,” Hedges said. “The varsity boys placed fifth, which is an improvement from last year’s seventh place finish. Everyone ran PR’s (personal records), which is great because everyone finished the season with their best times and efforts. I’m also proud of the junior varsity boys, who finished in fourth place and all ran lifetime bests.”

“I feel all the girls were focused, tapered and ready to compete physiologically and mentally,” Uhler commented. “Race day is 90 percent mental and we’ve done the work.”

The varsity girls had three girls place in the top ten, which is a feat in itself considering the IMC is perhaps the most competitive league in the state this year.

In a cordial show of sportsmanship, the Crook County team presented Hood River with farewell balloons and a card, wishing the Eagles luck in their new conference next year.

The move will mean big potential next season for the boys’ and girls’ teams, which are stacked with tough young runners.

“We had a good year,” Hedges said about the boys. “We improved every week but homecoming week. We have a freshmen- and sophomore-laden team, which bodes well for the next few years. We are moving toward being an elite team. Hopefully we will be motivated to work hard in the next nine months to put us in a position to be a championship team in the future.”

The girls’ team beat Barlow High School at more than one meet this year. Barlow went on to win the Mt. Hood Conference title at their recent district meet. With several young runners on the team, and this year’s top runners possibly returning next season, the future of the girls program is wide open.

“Our goal is to race in the elite division all next year,” said Uhler. “Our top five are all returning next year. But we have no room for complacency. To race elite we need all seven girls running under 20 minutes…It’s been a great season. The team gained self-confidence through hard work. And that’s the most important life lesson.”

Race results

Varsity boys:

Leo Castillo 3rd 16:07

Juan Zuniga 25th 17:24

Kevin Dye 30th 17:32

Carlos Quintana 32nd 17:37

Alex Vanslyke 36th 17:45

Gary Thompson 39th 17:49

Anthony Walden 46th 18:10

Varsity girls:

Erin Jones 4th 18:34

Melissa Kauffman 6th 19:18

Ashley Braniff 10th 19:48

Hillary Hilden 29th 20:57

Brisa Jessup 31st 21:07

Melissa Princehouse 34th 21:21

Kelsey Griffith 56th 22:48

JV boys:

Dylan Tiss 12th 18:22

Eli Camero 16th 18:33

Logan Davis 25th 18:52

Frank Zartler 37th 19:38

Joel Miller 41st 19:47

Don Valentine 44th 20:15

Ted Ostrye 48th 20:31

Davis Grossrode 50th 20:46

J. Phillips 53rd 20:58

Jeromy Davis 54th 21:03

JV girls:

Kylee Staughton 12th 22:31

Jenna Fisher 25th 23:32

Elise Byers 34th 24:21

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