“Healthy and fired up,” is how coach Kristen Uhler describes her varsity boys and girls cross country squads, as runners taper their training this week in preparation for Saturday’s Columbia River Conference Championships in Pendleton. With only the top two boys and girls varsity teams and top five individuals qualifying for the 5A state championships, the CRC race is an all-or-nothing 5k test of several months of hard work and dedication.
With confidence and momentum building alongside their conditioning over the last several weeks, if all goes as planned, both varsity boys and girls squads have a clear shot at district titles and at qualifying for next weekend’s state meet in Eugene.
As a final “tune-up” meet before focusing squarely on the district race, the Eagles traveled to Portland last Wednesday for a three-way race against Madison and Cleveland high schools. The HRV boys finished second with 35 points, three back from Cleveland and 30 ahead of Madison. The girls won the meet with 33 points, three ahead of No. 4-ranked Cleveland, while sophomore Sascha Bockius blew away the competition to finish under the 19-minute mark (18:51) and almost half a minute ahead of Oregon No. 4-ranked Emma Wren of Cleveland. Earlier this season Wren beat Bockius by about 15 seconds to claim first place in the Hood River Invitational — a result Bockius was clearly determined to reverse.
Ricardo Castillo led the boys squad with a 16:30 result good enough for second place behind Cleveland’s Nabi Amin (16:20.3). Uhler said the Cleveland boys team is ranked in the state’s top five, so finishing within three points was a great result.
With the goal of having all seven varsity boys finish under the 17-minute mark Saturday, the rest of the HRV boys are really going to have to run hard to secure the district title. Justin Crosswhite finished just over that mark with a sixth-place, 17:13.4 mark; his fastest of the season is a 16:36.1 at the Oct. 12 George Fox Classic. Quinn Fetkenhour, Nils Engbersen and Jorge Cuevas grouped together to finish eighth, ninth and 10th, and all three have come close to breaking the 17-minute mark this season. Carlos Chairez and Charlie Sutherland were 13th and 14th with sub 18-minute times to round out the Eagles’ fastest seven.
The girls’ side saw freshman Daisy Dolan and sophomore Sophi Marble finish together at sixth and seventh in 20:41 and 20:41. The goal for the girls team, Uhler said, is to get all the HRV girls in under the 20-minute mark at districts. Althea Dillon, Kailee McGeer, Lauren Robinson and Denali Emmons rounded out the varsity seven Wednesday and will have to run their career best Saturday if they’re going make that mark.