Focusing intently on the Columbia River Conference championships, Hood River Valley High School cross country traveled east over the weekend to race in the Wildhorse Invitational near Pendleton. The race — the last of the regular season for HRV — is used to fine-tune runners and varsity lineups before Saturday’s district race (held this year in Hood River).
With all four CRC teams in attendance (and about a dozen others), the race gives runners and coaches a good idea of who will be gunning for state meet appearances at the district meet, where the top two teams and top five individuals for varsity boys and girls advance to run the following week in Eugene.
“We approached it like a ‘tune-up’ meet; although we also don’t want to give any other teams in our league the psychological edge next week,” said coach Kristen Uhler.
Overall results put both Hood River teams in second place, behind Tri-Cities for the boys and Hermiston for the girls. Leading the way for the boys was Ricardo Castillo, who finished in 16:57.08, just two seconds shy of his personal best and about 30 seconds behind first-place finisher Seth Deal (15:25.19) of Tri-Cities Prep. Was second for the Eagles and 15th overall, followed by Miguel Cuevas rounding off the top three.
An important factor in the boys race is that the Hermiston team did not run their top guys, which will factor into next week’s race.
The varsity girls race saw a battle for the top two positions between Hood River and Hermiston. Freshman standout Grace Grim finished second overall (18:57.63) and first for the Eagles behind senior Maggie Coleman of Hermiston. A rivalry between the two has grown out of a few close finishes they have had this season.
After setting a record last week for the fastest 5,000 meter time in HRVHS history, Grim said she is gunning for Coleman and wants to “beat her when it counts” at the district championship. Coleman is the defending district champion and has edged-out Grim in several meets this season.
“We are a young team, but are totally focused and into having the best performance next Saturday in order to qualify for state.”
“The score was 55 to 55 in the girls race,” Uhler explained. “The tie goes to the sixth runner, which was from Hermiston; so we ended up with second place. It will probably be a blessing though; the girls are hungry to defend their district title on their home course, which is what we’ve trained for all season. It’s interesting to see what runners step-up, stay focused and race well for their team and themselves. Coach (Steve) Noteboom and I always remind the kids that cross country will prepare them for life. Staying healthy, dealing with challenge and tribulation builds perseverance, and that builds character.”
n District championships: HRVHS has home course advantage this year as it hosts the Columbia River Conference meet. Action starts at noon and will be centered around Henderson Community Stadium.