By BEN MCCARTY
News staff writer
September 2, 2006
When the bell rings on the last day of school, most kids look forward to setting their alarm clocks back (or just turning them off) and sleeping in for two months. Not the HRVHS cross country team. The boys and girls in blue and gold have been off and running at 7 a.m. for most of the summer.
“This is the smallest number of kids that I have, but they have great quality,” Coach Kristen Uhler said. “They are focused and committed.”
As a reward for getting up early during the summer, 12 runners were chosen to compete in the Portland to Coast High School Challenge last weekend with the Gorge River Hawks.
The Eagles return three state qualifiers this year, Leo Castillo, Erin Jones and Melissa Kauffman, and Uhler feels that the team can have an impact in the Mt. Hood Conference. Senior Alex Van Slyke wants to add to the team’s runners qualifying for state this season.
“I hope to make a good time and make it to state,” Van Slyke said.
While the team may not be as big as it has been in previous years, what it lacks in numbers, it makes up for in an experienced core of runners that is constantly seeking to get better.
“We’re expecting a pretty good team this year,” Castillo said. “A lot of people are improving.”
In a conference filled with large schools, that experience will be important to pick up state qualifying spots. Castillo is regarded as a strong favorite to return to state, and Van Slyke could very well join him this season.
On the girls’ side, Kauffman would like to make it to state one more time before graduating in the spring, and the up and coming Jones should be right up there with her. Uhler said that Jones and Kauffman push each other to get better, and that “they are good for each other” as they both improve.
In the Mt. Hood Conference last season, Central Catholic ran away to a state team title on the boys’ side. Centennial was the only other boys’ team in the conference to finish in the top 20, coming in at 17th. On the girls’ side, Centennial finished 14th, while Barlow finished 18th as a team.
With a strong returning group the Eagles should be able to make a run at the district title, and hopefully send several runners to state.
“We are going to take no prisoners,” Kauffman said.
While none of the runners has competed in the new conference before, they are looking forward to the challenge.
“We are starting over in a new conference,” Jones said. “It will be fun.” Uhler has coached in the Mt. Hood before and she looks forward to the opportunities that are presented by returning to the conference. “We are excited by this new league and the chance to be successful,” she said.
Uhler added that because they are smaller than other teams in the league it would be important for the team to stay healthy and uninjured as the season progresses, but that she feels confident that the Eagles can compete with the best the Mt. Hood Conference can throw at them.
“We want to stay united as a team and to make it to the state meet,” she said.