Young, talented, enthusiastic and bound for state.
That's how you describe the Hood River Valley High School girls cross country team.
The Eagles advanced as a group to the OSAA Class 5A meet in Eugene Saturday after winning the Columbia River District meet Oct. 29.
Freshmen Fiona Wylde and Jessica DeHart took fourth and sixth place, respectively, at the district meet at The Dalles' Sorosis Park.
"We're all extremely excited," Wylde said. "It will be a privilege and a really good experience to compete against people faster than us."
The freshman standouts led a charge closely packed by sophomore Althea Dillon in seventh, senior Danae Burck in eighth and sophomore Rhue Buddendeck at ninth to complete the scoring top five.
'I'm so proud to be part of this team.' - Sophomore Althea Dillon
For more insights from the district champions, see the Nov. 4 edition.
Making state sets the Eagles up for a two-year set of goals: place among the top seven teams this year and the top three in 2012, according to coach Kristen Uhler.
"We have a really good chance at being number seven or higher," DeHart said. "I'm really thinking we can pull that off, or higher."
Senior Makenzie Bassham came in 14th and junior Lydia Gildehaus 16th to round out a tightly packed Eagles squad.
"I'm excited to get to state and be district champs, because I'm a senior," Burck said. "We went into it aiming to qualify and get to state and we ended up getting first. So that was a nice surprise."
The team dominated the race with 34 points to Pendleton's 49, Hermiston 53 and TDW 96.
The boys team's top finisher was Jorge Cuevas, in eighth.
"We were ready, mentally and physically," Uhler said. "We were prepared for the hilly course as we both trained and raced on the course twice."
She said he runners visualized the course at practice and at night before they fell asleep. They each had an individual plan and team strategy in running the challenging course.
"We were worried about Hermiston as they have beat us all year long; yet they knew they had a chance if everyone had a good race. We had to all pack in front of their number three, Kelli Nederwerfer.
Madison Freeman was the JV district champion and her time beat those of Bassham and Gildehaus so she will be traveling to Eugene as well.
Uhler noted that the varsity boys are in a tough league. Hermiston is the defending State 5A champion and Pendleton produces competitive teams every year.
She said Jorge Cuevas works hard, is focused and team-oriented.
"He is getting faster by the day and improved by over one minute from a month ago on the same course in The Dalles."
Sage Deenik took 11th, Miguel Cuevas 12th, Ricardo Castillo 13th and Sean Crompton 19th.
"We didn't pack tight enough for this small of a field," Uhler said. Broddie Sutherland and Nils Engbersen were 22nd and 23rd.
She said the JV boys "did an exceptional job" with Juan Carlos Rios, Javier Jimenez and Ryan Colesar placing in the top 10.
"Again, this is a young team and were excited for the talented eighth-grade boys that will be joining us next year," Uhler said. "The runners are also realizing that year-round training and especially summer training is essential to be competitive."
The state meet starts at 1:30 p.m. Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.