Girls who are close friends, not just a team, make the journey this weekend to the OSAA Class 5A state cross country at Lane Community College in Eugene.
"We're a team, on and off the race course," said junior Lydia Gildehaus, who carries a particular passion to place well this year: She barely missed the cut in 2010, and cheered teammate Grace Viukhola, a 2010 graduate, to finish in fifth place.
"I'm just so proud to be part of the team. I love this team," said sophomore Althea Dillon, who ran the first two races on JV and then cracked varsity for the rest of the season.
"I think these girls are really good friends," said coach Kristen Uhler, in her 26th year coaching. "This is one of the best teams I've ever coached, and it's super-fun."
"We're one big happy family," said Fiona Wylde, the freshman who emerged as the team's premier runner in 2010.
Gildehaus said, "This year the girls finally get the light we thought we should have had last year. I'm happy to go and actually race."
Uhler said freshmen Wylde and Jessica DeHart have taken the lead all year, and the young runners provide the enthusiasm, with seniors Danae Burck (captain) and Makenzie Bassham providing "calm, mature leadership."
"It's a perfect combination for a winning team," Uhler said.
"We're such good friends, but without our seniors next year it'll be a different adventure," DeHart said.
"I just bring up the rear," joked Bassham, a first-year cross country runner who did soccer and music in her first three years. "I finally saw the light," she said.
Wylde said friendship and teamwork blend well on the course.
"With our team and with our pack, it can change at any moment; if someone is having a bad race or having a great race, someone can just move to first, and that's how it works. Being a part of a team can be competitive, and you want a teammate who has a chance of switching around so it's not set in stone."
The team went to Eugene on Friday with a high degree of confidence.
"I feel like I'm just peaking," Dillon said. "I don't feel like I've come down off the peak yet. Last year we missed state but this year we're champions."
Gildehaus said that to prepare, "I am doing what I wish I did last year. Let's just 'pow' it out for state."
No matter the outcome today, the team is already thinking 2012. Said Wylde, "We're going to have some fun next year and train real hard all summer."
"Going to state this year will make us hungry for blood next year," said sophomore Rhue Buddendeck. "I look forward to the competition next year. I think we're going to be awesome."