Horizon Christian School’s cross country program is hitting its stride.
Sophomore Josiah Sohal surprised the field in kicking to his first win as a runner at the Southwest Christian Invitational on Sept. 27.
“It was still kind of in shock, ‘Am I really in first place?’ I was having a hard time believing it,” Sohal said he thought when he reached the finish line seconds ahead of sophomore David Dougan of Westside Christian.
As a team, Horizon will hit a major milestone this month: This is the second year for coach Heather Laurance’s program, and on Oct. 9, she will field a full scoring team.
Laurance has five runners ready to hit the course at the Estacada Invitational.
“The next race is first time we have a scoring girls team, which is very huge for 1A, very rare,” Laurance said. Ten teams, from 1A and higher, will compete in Estacada.
Up to now, the Hawks have entered races but have not been able to score as a team, which requires a minimum of five athletes. In cross country, like golf, low score wins, with points awarded for the first five on each team: One point for first place, two for second, five for fifth, 12 points for 12th place, and so on.
“We are building this program; we had three runners last season and now seven,” Laurance said.
Overall, this is a young team that is steadily improving and building endurance, according to Laurance.
“Right now, we are just at the tip of the iceberg,” Laurance said.
Comprising the girls’ squad are four new runners: Senior Adoree Schlegel; freshman Olivia Nickson; junior Sarah Winters; freshman Ellie Rinella; and one returning runner, junior Kayla Kilgore.
Winters ran a couple years for The Dalles and Sohal had one season of track for Horizon, but has never done cross country.
Running with Sohal is senior Gunnar McCaw.
The team started training in August, and the runners have built their “base strength” through endurance, hill-climbing, speed and interval drills.
“We are now getting into more serious race-base training and expect to see times improve enormously and program to keep growing,” Laurance said.
“Our runners are improving every race, some shaving two or three minutes off their time.”
Southwest Christian Invitational
The Hawks ran against 10 other varsity teams, with 79 participants, in the 5K Beaverton race.
Of Sohal’s 18:16.05 win, Laurance said, “It was unbelievable, we told him to try to stay in with the first pack and see how long he can hang, and he went out and ran the race, won in last 400 meters, outpacing and outsprinting Dougan (18:20).”
“Definitely, I wasn’t expecting it,” Sohal said when asked if he surprised himself with the victory. He achieved it, he said, ”Mostly mentally. It was definitely painful and I was getting ready to push into another gear, if I had to.
“You can just sense if you can push another notch, for just a few more seconds. It’s more like that mental game of ‘you gotta push it.’ I was just trying to stick with the guy in front of me until the end, to see if I could pass him.”
Sohal did so at the 300-meter mark, and topped his 5K personal best of 19:08. McCaw placed 50th with a time of 22:10.96.
For the girls, Schlegel finished eighth in 23.19.55 in her first race ever. Schlegal, who is also a dancer, joined the team Sept. 20 and had been practicing a week.
Nickson, the Hawks’ front-runner in earlier meets at Tualatin and The Dalles, ran with a head cold and finished 21st, (25:21.32). Kilgore was 27th (26:10.60) and Winters 40th (27:51.99).