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OSAA Oregon State Championships

Lane Community College, Eugene OR

Saturday November 1, 2008

Surprises and suspense amid expected outcomes
Jesuit sweeps the 6A titles, but plenty of subplots at 2008 state meet

by Dave Devine, DyeStat NW Editor
Photos by Robert Rosenberg

On an overcast day largely lacking suspense in the team portion of the state’s largest classification, the 2008 Oregon State Meet still managed a number of surprises and plenty of drama in the eight championship races unfolding at Eugene’s Lane Community College. 

The nationally-ranked Jesuit boys and girls might have been substantial favorites in the 6A contests, but the individual outcomes were far murkier, and delivered compelling champions in the form of overlooked North Medford junior Drew Jordan (right) and Jesuit sophomore Annamarie Maag, who emerged from a five-runner traffic jam in the final 300-meter track sprint to become Jesuit’s first individual champion since 1993.  In the 4A girls’ race, everyone was waiting to see if 2007 Foot Locker finalist Taylor Wallace was fully recovered from a partially-torn Achilles tendon, and if she’d be fit enough to defend her title.  Fellow 4A defending champ Elliott Jantzer (Phoenix sr) was looking for a statement race after spending much of the season under the radar.   And the Crater boys and Summit girls were each looking to cement their status as 5A favorites, with Summit’s Alyssa O’Connor hoping to lead her team to a title after missing the last two state meets with injuries.   There were stirring possibilities up and down the schedule, and judging from the post-race podium celebrations, even the expected Jesuit victories were never taken for granted by a pair of squads which labored all season to hone their pack compressions to devastating efficiency.

Maag, Jordan emerge from closely-matched 6A fields for titles

Oregon state meet fans perched on the hill alongside Lane Community College’s vivid blue track watch race after race, hoping for a moment like this: a lead pack with multiple runners simultaneously reaching the far edge of the track, 300-meters to go, and the race completely up for grabs.  The Girls 6A contest  delivered exactly that scenario, with St. Mary’s senior Alexandra Jones fronting a five-runner group that also included Gresham junior Khalia Tidwell, Lake Oswego junior Tate Murray, and the Jesuit trio of sophomores Annamarie Maag and Payton Schutte and senior Noelle VanRysselberghe.  The presence of Schutte was already a victory for the Jesuit squad, which had been inching her closer to front-running Maag and VanRysselberghe all season.  Here she was with less than a lap remaining on the track, battling for the state meet win.

Tidwell of Gresham had been the early leader in the race (left), charging to the fore right from the gun, drawing away from the pack in the opening mile.  She seemed to extend her lead on the isolated loop around the lake, hitting 2 miles at 11:42, but on the second full loop of the course, the trailing pack consumed Tidwell’s lead and turned it into a 5-girl race.

Alexandra Jones seemed to have the momentum as the quintet rounded the far curve of the track, but Maag found the gear that has taken her to multiple victories in her inaugural cross country season for the Crusaders.

“Coming around to the track,” she said afterwards, “I thought everyone was going to start passing me, because my legs were tightening up.  And then once I slowly started catching Alexandra, around the 200, I found an opening and just went for it.”

Maag charged home in 18:23.3, fastest girl’s time of the day, with Jones following in 18:26.9, and Tidwell third in 18:27.2.

“I thought Alexandra was coming with me,” Maag recalled. “Then I turned around and saw I had a marginal lead and I just took it in from there.”

Her Jesuit teammates took it as well, with Schutte getting up for fifth in 18:28.1 and VanRysselberghe right behind at 18:28.8.  The NW#1 Crusaders completed their scoring with two more in the top 16, for a 36-point total well clear of runner-up St. Mary’s Academy.  It was St. Mary’s that upset Jesuit at last year’s NTN Northwest Regional, after Jesuit had won the state title, but the injury-plagued Blues were unable to muster a surprise this time around.  They were runners-up nonetheless, behind Jones second-place run and Lucy Whipps’ and Alexa Kearns’ top-10 efforts, but weren’t the threat they had hoped to be to Jesuit’s now seven-year reign.

"We are going to rest up and regroup before [NXN] regionals," Jones said after the race.

If anything, the NW#2 Jesuit boys were even more impressive than the girls, cramming all five scorers into the top 10 behind third-placer Andy Kiyokawa’s 16:04.6.  The Crusaders’ front four all hit the track together (right), and finished less than six ticks apart.  Fifth man Patrick Maag (16:15) was a mere five seconds in arrears, for a sterling state record 1-5 split of 11 seconds.  Their 27 points were more than enough to turn back Central Catholic’s 79-point second place effort.  Like St. Mary’s, Central Catholic was an NTN team last year which entered the season with high expectations, but experienced enough illness and injury over the course of the fall that they were happy just to get their varsity seven to the line and ready to run.  According to CC’s top finisher, seventh-placer Peter Slauson (16:10.8), the Rams were excited to simply land on the podium after the up and down travails of the season.

If Jesuit was a solid bet to arrive atop the boys’ medal stand, North Medford junior Drew Jordan was far less of a favorite to win the individual crown.  In fact, the field was considered fairly wide open, with no clear standout, like Kenny Klotz or Bryce Burgess may have been in previous years.   South Eugene’s Sammy Kirtner was a name many mentioned in the days leading up to the state meet, and when the purple-clad senior seized a sizable lead after the 2-mile mark, it seemed the race was firmly in his hands.   Through the deep dip of the soccer bowl his margin only seemed to widen, but lingering in his wake was Jordan, and he wasn’t ready to give up a shot at his first state title.

“Sammy got a little gap on me,” Jordan said after the race, “and he pulled away a bit in the bowl, but I had all the confidence in my training.”

With wins at the State of Jefferson Invite and the Southwest Conference district meet, as well as a strong fourth-place showing at the Puma Invite, Jordan added 6A state champ to his resume by breaking Kirtner in the third mile and streaming home for the 15:55.6 victory.  Kirtner was second in 16:03.1, followed by the Jesuit 4-pack.

“Of course I envisioned it,” Jordan said. “Last night…coming here to the course today. But I was still surprised when Sammy and I pulled away at the 2-mile mark.  It felt pretty good.”

Lake loop proves to be the decisive section

If there was one place on the Lane CC course where the most decisive moves were made, it was the section where runners loop out along the lake, far from the cheering crowds.  In both the boys and girls 5A races, that’s where the winning individuals played their hand.  Crook County sophomore Kellie Foley (left) entered the narrow loop side-by-side with Crater star Kayleigh Tyerman, dropped the hammer along the back end of the lake and never looked back.   Crater junior Josh Elliott hit the lake loop mingled with a large pack of runners led by Hermiston senior Jordan Ringe.  About halfway through their tour along the lake edge, it was clear the real racing had started.  Josh, his brother Zach, and Ringe drew rapidly clear from the rest, with Springfield’s Tim Costin trying to hang on and Josh most obviously pounding the pace past the 2-mile mark and charging up the ensuing hill. 

In both cases, the eventual champs worried they’d gone too soon, and in both cases, the lake loop gambit paid off with first-time state titles.

Foley was following in the footsteps of her sister Michelly, who won the 5A title last fall as a Crook County senior.  Just a sophomore herself, Kellie Foley ran with a confidence that belied her years.

“I wondered if I should have gone so soon,” she said, “but I just kept pushing because I knew all my hard work in practice would pay off.”  Despite her doubts about jumping too early, Foley only seemed to gather strength en route to her 18:32.5 victory on the track.  “Once I started feeling good, I said why underestimate myself?”

Tyerman ran strong for second in 18:55.6, but immediately behind her came the Summit trio of Alyssa O'Connor (18:58.6), Megan Fristoe (19:04) and Kellie Schueler (19:07.2), finishing 3-4-5 to start the 25 points NW#9 Summit needed for the win over Crater’s 73.

“I think a lot of us were nervous going into the race,” Schueler said, “because we had so much riding on our shoulders. Coming in with so many people expecting a win adds a whole new pressure lots of people don't face. I think we handled it well."

The Summit girls were sporting pink dye in their hair, following a tradition they started last year, though Schueler pointed out they learned from the mistake of using permanent dye in ’07, and switched to a spray-on version this year.

Crater’s Elliott (#815 right) was running with team expectations that matched the Summit girls, and doubts that paralleled Foley’s after he made his strong push at the 2-mile mark, but he gamely held on for a 15:44.4 victory, despite appearing to struggle as his form disintegrated in the closing kilometer.

“I decided, ‘I’m not going to leave this up to my kick,’” he said, “because my kick isn’t the best.  So I made my move at the pond.  I guess you could say I beat them by pure determination.  I kept telling myself how much I wanted…I gutted it out.”

Hermiston’s Ringe finished second in 15:54.3 to split the brothers Elliott, with Zach third at 16:00.4, but the 1-3 combo for Crater was a great start to scoring that saw their five finish in the top 22, and a talley of 42 to Cleveland’s 110.

“We listen to our coach [Justin Loftus], and that’s all we need,” the younger Elliot said, catching his breath after the race.  “Our coach tells us what we need, and we just have to trust him.”

Wallace and Jantzer repeat on the big stage

Despite being one of the smaller classifications, the 4A races featured two of the best individual talents in the state.   Elliott Jantzer and Taylor Wallace (left) were both defending champions, but both entered the meet with something to prove.  Jantzer started the fall with high expectations as an anticipated star in the Northwest, but faltered somewhat in his first big race at Nike Pre-Nationals, and spent the rest of the regular season in mostly lower-key affairs.   Wallace was Oregon’s only returning Foot Locker finalist from 2007, but partially tore her Achilles tendon at a summer basketball camp and spent all of September cross training and swimming in an effort to stay fit. 

Both passed their big test on the state stage with flying colors.

Wallace asserted herself early and never looked back, breaking away from Sutherlin sophomore Chelsea Spencer on the opening loop and cruising to an 18:43.7 win that left the Henley senior both pleased and relieved.

“It took me a while to get in shape,” she said, “so it just feels nice to win.  I didn’t even think I’d make it to state.  I didn’t think I’d be in good enough shape.”

She admitted the injury news was difficult to take at first, but now she’s hopeful to salvage the remainder of the season.  “I was really down about it, because I really wanted to do a lot of damage this year and accomplish a lot, so I was definitely depressed for a while… but I feel like I’m in alright shape—not as good as last year this time, but I’m hoping to get in even better shape heading to Foot Locker.”

Jantzer (right) has Foot Locker aspirations of his own, and showed he’s still very much in the running with his wire-to-wire 15:42.8 victory which qualified as the fastest boy’s time of the day.  Asserting himself on the first hill ascent a few hundred meters into the race, Jantzer quickly gapped the field and left North Bend’s Trevor Berrian (16:03.9) and Hidden Valley’s Connor Kasler (16:07.3) to battle it out for second and third.

“I decided if I was going to lead it,” the confident Phoenix senior said, “there wasn’t going to be anyone behind me but a chase pack, because I really don’t like running scared like that.”  He added, “This race was really just testing everything…testing myself.  If anyone had gone with me, I think I could have beaten them.”

‘With Kasler nailing down the three-spot, Hidden Valley used a strong front four cramming the top eleven to score a lean 37 points for the 4A team title, 36 clear of runner-up Phoenix’s 73.

Equally impressive in the team battle were the Siuslaw girls, with front runners Samantha Pummer (19:38.9) and Raelyn Robinson (19:39.3) finishing 3rd and 4th to lead all five Viking scorers into the top 21 for a stingy 36 points, a dominating 86-point victory over runner-up Scappoose (122).

3A-2A-1A Recaps
by Laura Magee

Girls: Cardenas triumphs, St. Mary's girls defend

The first race of the day started at 10 am with an overcast sky overhead. Two-time state champion Ashley Baldovino (Lakeview jr) and Nancy Cardenas (Umatilla sr) were quick to the front of the race, along with two Vale runners. By the time they hit the back side of the
course, Cardenas and Baldovino were running together with Sydney Snook of Gold Beach about fifteen seconds behind. Before entering the lake loop, both St. Mary's of Medford and Vale were showing a strong team presence. Cardenas tried to pull away from Baldovino as they circled the lake, but there remained just a few feet between the two, with two-mile splits of 11:59 and 12:01. Cardenas charged up the hill for the start of the final mile, finally putting some distance on Baldovino, Snook holding onto third.

Catlin Gabel girls had moved up in the second mile with three now in front of St. Mary's first. Before dropping off the ridge for the last time, Cardenas had increased her lead to about fifteen seconds.  Cardenas had an easy 100m lead over Baldovino; Hayley Ney moved into third with Snook holding on for fourth at the final turn before heading onto the track.

An excited Cardenas earned the first individual title of the day in 19:03. "This is special for me, especially because I am a senior,' said Cardenas, who felt strong up the hills.

It was mixed emotions for the Baldovinos (Ashley and senior Talissa) who finished second and fifth (19:24 and 19:49) with hugs and tears as they were corralled into the holding tent before awards.

Ashley shared, "I was sick for a month, that hurt a lot of my meets. I didn't get as much training as I knew I should have.  This season wasn't the greatest for me. I knew today was going to be a struggle, I just wanted to finish top five and go to Border Clash. That was my goal." Despite the disappointment she feels about the season, Ashley gives credit to her competition. "That took a lot for me to hold on to her.  She did really well, I'm proud of Nancy. She deserves this more than I do. She's trained a lot, and she has improved her time."

A supportive Talissa Baldovino comforted Ashley, but managed a little celebration at the same time as she flashed her fifth place card to fans across the track. "Top ten was my goal, top five is even better."

Repeat team winner St. Mary's of Medford didn't allow the same close 2 point win as 2007, beating Catlin Gabel 82 to 92. The next three teams were separated by a mere 3 points, Vale (144), Valley Catholic (145), and Lakeview (147).

Union defends boys title, while Nyssa's Nelson takes individual win

A little more drizzle as the boys took to the course for their first race of the day. Nyssa went out fast, sending the message that this would be a race. By the time the pack reached the backstretch, it included five individuals; Brian Nelson (Nyssa jr), Cole Watson (Rogue River jr), Andrew Landstrom (Portland Christian jr), Tom Sheehy (Union jr) and Chris Fasel (Union sr).  Nyssa and Union were both holding strong in the team competition. The pack shrunk to four on the lake loop, losing a Union runner. The group pulled through the two mile in 10:20. The Union boys had moved their way up through the pack.  Nelson led up the hill, and started to put some distance between himself and
the field as he made his way across the upper ridge. Holding their places constant as they ran the last stretch and the finishing portion
on the track, Nelson won handily in 16:05, Landstrom second in 16:23, Sheehy third in 16:31.  Union appeared to be a dominant force, putting three runners in the top ten.

Winner Brian Nelson continued to cheer on his Nyssa teammates from the infield tent.

"Hopefully they are competing for a state title right now,' said Nelson. As for his own race, he commented, "I was really happy with it." And who wouldn't be? He scored a personal best to win the state title. Last year's state race looked a bit different for Nelson: finishing twelfth with a time of 17:06. A big change that has helped Nelson develop as a runner is the growth of his team. "My coach has worked us a lot harder this year. He saw how much potential we had as a team."

Nyssa ended in second place with 67 points behind Union with  49.