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2006 Adidas Cross Country Classic

It's NW#2 Jesuit OR Girls, NW#10 Kodiak AK Boys as Alaska again makes big impact in OR

Saturday, October 14, 2006 Fernhill Park, Portland OR

by Dave Devine, Northwest NTN Regional Editor

Elite Results - Invitational Results - Elite Boys Summary - Elite Girls Summary - Invitational Summaries - Preview

NW#10 Kodiak AK boys win the Adidas Invite Elite race with 53 pts over NW#5 Central Catholic OR (62) and NW#8 Jesuit OR (63).  Individual winner is Central Catholic's Taylor Morgan (15:28), followed by Kodiak's top two, Trevor Dunbar (15:32) and Cory Pena (15:43).

NW#2 Jesuit OR (49 pts.) girls beat NW#7 Juneau-Douglas AK (74) and NW#6 West Anchorage AK (83) in Girls Elite, with undefeated Juneau-Douglas freshman Leah Francis setting a new meet record of 17:42.



Individual winners Taylor Morgan (left) and Leah Francis.  Photos by Ty Hoskins, RecCentral.net


Meet Summary
One year ago, a talented girls’ team from West Valley, Alaska, frustrated that Alaskan teams were being ignored in the national cross country polls, wrote the script for how to change that scenario: race extremely well at the state meet in September, maintain your peak another few weeks, travel south to a large Northwest invitational, and take down some highly-ranked teams.  It worked so well in 2005—West Valley won the Adidas Classic, was Northwest ranked and received a bid to NTN—that it has helped inspire what seems to be a renaissance in Alaskan high school distance running.  This season, several more teams have followed West Valley’s script and made something eminently clear: it is no longer possible to ignore the Alaskans.

At Saturday’s 2nd Adidas Cross Country Classic, the Kodiak AK boys’ squad, rested and ready after a week in McMinnville, OR between meets, ran aggressively from the gun to take down NW#5 Central Catholic and NW#8 Jesuit in an incredibly tight Boy’s Elite section.  Central Catholic’s Taylor Morgan won the race with a blistering kick, but Kodiak’s Trevor Dunbar and Cory Pena were second and third, a 1-2 punch neither the Rams nor the Crusaders could overcome.

In the girls’ Elite race, Jesuit confirmed their NW#2 ranking by placing their seven in the top-25 to come away with a  49-point win, but two ranked Alaskan teams—NW#7 Juneau-Douglas (74) and NW#6 West Anchorage (83)—were second and third, with Juneau-Douglas freshman Leah Francis winning the race in a new meet record of 17:42.3.

The Alaskan impact didn’t end there, as Anchorage Christian, a school with 190 students in grades 9-12, tied South Salem for first in the girls’ Varsity Invitational section (losing on their 6th runner) and won the boys’ Varsity Invitational section, 113-135, over Sheldon.

Boys Elite Race
The t-shirts worn by the Kodiak boys to the Jim Danner Invite a week ago contained the following slogan across the back: There Is No Kryptonite.  At the Adidas meet this week, the team ran like they believed it.  Ranked 10th in the Northwest polls behind competitors Central Catholic (5th) and Jesuit (8th), with no other ranked teams in the field, Kodiak had nothing to lose—and plenty to gain—by racing aggressively.  That’s exactly what they did.  Cory Pena dragged his Kodiak teammate, Trevor Dunbar, through the opening mile in 4:55 and threatened to seize the race by the throat early on. 

Lurking in third, however, was Central Catholic’s Taylor Morgan, unclear on the identity of the two ambitious kids in yellow singlets streaking ahead.

“I saw the two guys run away,” he said afterwards, “I didn’t know where they were from, but I knew they were going out too fast, so I just settled into third, leading the pack.  With about a mile to go I passed the one guy and I had the other guy in my sights and I knew if it came down to a 400 meter sprint I could get him.”

If Morgan was unfamiliar with Kodiak’s runners, they were not unfamiliar with him.

“I kept hearing Taylor [Morgan] behind me,” Kodiak’s ace Trevor Dunbar said, sprawled in the grass afterwards. “I knew he was closing, but I just didn’t have anything left at the end to deal with him.”

As they approached the 3 mile mark, with Morgan only fifteen feet arrears, Dunbar took a quick glance over his shoulder, giving Morgan his opportunity.

“He knew I was there,” Morgan said, “but he didn’t know where.  I tried to stay as quiet as possible, without breathing really hard.  When I saw him look back, I thought, ‘This is my chance, I’m going.’”

With only a sharp turn and a straightaway on the track remaining, Morgan dropped his 1:52 800 speed on Dunbar (who later sheepishly revealed his own 800 pr to be “about 2:05”).  Morgan pulled clear for a satisfying 15:28.8 win, capping off what he admitted was a “really tough week.” 

After collapsing in the chute at Jim Danner (and inadvertently setting off a scoring controversy that lit up the message boards for days), Morgan spent the week getting tested for the cause of his late-race blackouts.  An MRI came back negative, but blood tests revealed a lingering virus that has made training an exhausting prospect and left him fighting off sleep in class.  While not completely recovered, he found enough in the tank to get the win on Saturday, and seemed happy just to return to racing.

The Kodiak boys were happy to get back to racing too, after a low-key week of training and resting between Jim Danner and Adidas.

“We tried to keep the guys relaxed and mostly have a good time,” Coach Marcus Dunbar said. “Last week we were a little tired, I think, because we had flown down on a red-eye flight and really didn’t get any sleep. We were just hoping to hold our peak one more week.  Six out of seven guys got PRs today, so you can’t be anything but happy with that.”

Two of the Bears having breakout days were Dunbar’s own sons, Trevor and Miles.  Trevor’s race was expected—he’s been leading Kodiak all season—but Miles, normally a top-five guy for the team, was coming off a rough day at Danner where he finished 7th man on the team in 17:24.  Even Trevor knew the pressure was on his older brother to step up.

“We wanted to beat some ranked NTN teams ahead of us, and to do it we needed Miles to run a bit faster this week.  Today he just went off.”

If anything was the key to Kodiak’s win, it may have been the gutsy run by the coach’s older son.  Miles Dunbar was his team’s third man at Adidas, finishing 11th in 16:04—a 1:20 improvement on his Danner race.

“Miles was really the difference from last week to this week,” Coach Dunbar said as he watched his squad receive their trophy, “so yeah, I was very proud of him.”

Losing to Kodiak by 9-points (53-62), Central Catholic found themselves saddled with yet another disappointing loss to a lower-ranked team.  More concerning for them, however, must be the team immediately in the rearview mirror—Oregon 6A rival Jesuit, only one point back at 63.  Central has never underestimated Jesuit—even if others seemed ready to hand the Rams the trophy in August—but the state championship meet just got a lot closer. 

Alaska’s season may be over for now, but Oregon’s is only starting to heat up.



The winning boys and girls teams from Kodiak AK and Jesuit OR . Photos by Ty Hoskins, RecCentral.net


Girls Elite Race
Before the girls Elite Race, Juneau-Douglas freshman Leah Francis received some advice from her coach. 

“She told me to take it as you’ve taken every other race this season.  Don’t try anything new.”

That would presumably include losing.

Francis has never lost a cross country race in her young career.  She tore through the Alaskan fall undefeated, winning a state championship in the process, and put that record on the line at Fernhill Park against some of the better girls in the Northwest.  Used to the undulating hills and rough terrain of Alaskan courses, she wondered how she’d fare on the grassy and mostly flat Adidas course.

“I really love hills, a lot more than flat stuff, so I was thinking ‘Oh no, this is really flat.’ You end up having to run faster the whole way around...it’s more steady.”

Leading at the mile, Francis pulled Sheldon’s Casey Masterson and Summit’s Alyssa O’Connor through the two-mile under 11:30 before drawing away for a clear win over Masterson in the last half mile.  Her 17:42.3 was a new meet record, six seconds up on Masterson’s impressive 17:48.2. 

O’Connor had third locked up as the top-three hit the track, but suddenly lost her form and crumpled with about fifty meters to go.  Unable to rally, she was taken from the track apron on a ambulance stretcher.  Later, Summit coach Dave Clark said his top-runner complained of hip soreness on Friday, but felt fit enough to run by Saturday afternoon.  When she collapsed to the track in the closing meters of the race, she told him she couldn’t move her hip at all.  At the end of the meet, Coach Clark was still waiting to hear word from the hospital on her prognosis.

Rushing past the fallen O’Connor was a pair of Jesuit Crusaders, Adrienne McGuirk (3rd – 18:08.9) and Noelle VanRysselberghe (5th – 18:10.6), sandwiched around Sherwood’s Ilsa Paulson (3rd - 18:09.7).  Behind their lead duo, Jesuit’s next five were filling up the top-25, nailing down a successful attempt to prevent an Alaskan upset for the second year in a row.

Deeper in the field, Juneau-Douglas was running strong, and had the advantage of Francis’ 1-point leadoff, but couldn’t overcome Jesuit’s 3-5-8-14-19-21-23 effort.  Neither could West Anchorage, who also had aspirations for a West Valley-like jump in the rankings after Adidas.  Still, the two Northern squads were second and third, easily turning back a game Siuslaw team, 4th at 139.

Boys Varsity Invitational Race
If it looked like Madison’s Chris McConnell was a man on a mission during the boys’ Invitational race, that’s because he was.  McConnell shot to the lead from the gun, the splits scribbled in blue on his left forearm laying out an ambitious plan to take down his school’s 15 year-old 5k record of 15:54.  He led through the mile in 4:54 and passed 2-miles in 10:11, with Bend’s Wes Cheney 4 seconds back and looming.  Cheney had a plan too.  “I just kept pushing and feeding off the leaders,” he said after the race.  McConnell held off the taller, lankier runner for the next mile, but found himself in a dead sprint with Cheney on the track at the finish.  Cheney prevailed—15:51.0 to 15:51.9—in one of the tightest finishes of the day.  It was a 30-second PR for Cheney and his first big win of the season.  McConnell got what he was after too.  “I wasn’t really worried about getting first,” he said, “that wasn’t my main focus, it was beating that record.”  The blue ink splits were smeared and nearly illegible, but the mark was his—he’d sliced almost 3 seconds off the Madison record.

In the team race, Anchorage Christian, behind the frontrunning efforts of Michael Miller (4th – 16:14.2) and Carlos Arias (11th – 16:34.2), joined the Kodiak boys as Alaskan victors on the medal stand.  Their 113 points was well clear of Sheldon’s 135 and Foster’s 150.

Girl’s Varsity Invitational Race
It was a day for freshman in the girl’s races at Adidas.  Juneau-Douglas’ Leah Francis won the girls’ Elite race, and Milwaukie OR freshman Erin Mclaughlin ran away with the girls’ Varsity Invitational section in 18:44.9.  She trailed yet another talented Alaskan runner, Anchorage Christian’s Nychele Fischetti, through the first two miles before springing a move in the third.

“My plan was to stay behind [Fischetti] and then on the last lap I felt like I could go, so I did.  I don’t normally race with a plan, I just kind of run with how my competitors race.  On the third lap, going up the hill, I tried to pick it up, and then sped down the hill hoping I could get my legs going.”  She got them going.  Turning a close race into a 15-second rout through the last half-mile, McLaughlin showed she had plenty in reserve and stamped herself as one to watch in the coming years.  She also had high praise for her competition.  Of Fischetti, McLaughlin said, “She’s amazing, she’s really good... it was a great race.”

The team battle was a great race too.  Anchorage Christian nearly took this one as well, tying South Salem with 94 points before succumbing to the Oregon squad on the sixth runner tie-breaker.  South Salem’s Alathea Strauser was the difference-maker, coming in 42nd to top Anchorage Christian’s sixth, Kelsey Labato, in 53rd.  Crook County was the third team with 148.

Meet Preview

Elite Girls Race
Last year at this meet, a little-known team from Fairbanks, Alaska named West Valley traveled down to Oregon and surprised for the win. This year, two Alaska squads having hot seasons will try to duplicate that feat. West Valley competed last Saturday at Jim Danner and will not be running Adidas, but NW#6 West Anchorage AK and NW#7 Juneau-Douglas AK will both be stepping up to match their runners against NW#2 Jesuit OR. Previously-ranked Siuslaw OR—one week after winning the Mariman Invitational with 35 points—could make this an interesting 4-team race up front.

Individually, Hermiston’s Jennifer Macias is the highest returning finisher from last year (3rd in ’05-18:11), closely followed by Philomath’s Hayley Belli (4th in ’05-18:19) and Jesuit’s #1, Katie Sullivan (6th in ’05 -18:27). They’ll be challenged up front by—among others—Summit’s Alyssa O’Connor (hot off her 18:09 fourth place at Danner last week), Sherwood’s Ilsa Paulson (1st in Danner Div1 race-18:33) and Sullivan’s Jesuit teammate Adrienne McGuirk (12th in Danner NW race-18:37). All of these girls may have their hands full, however, with the visitors from the North. Juneau-Douglas is led by undefeated freshman Leah Francis, who capped off her tear through the Alaskan fall with an 18:39 state win. West Anchorage is fronted by Shoshana Keegan (2nd at state in 18:53) and a trio of freshman sisters—Letitia, Delia and Marcelyn Luch—all of whom are comfortable in the lead pack.

Elite Boys Race
If everybody is healthy and ready to roll, NW#5 Central Catholic OR would seem to be the favorite here, with strong squads from Jesuit OR (NW#8) and Kodiak AK (NW#10) in the mix. Kodiak traveled south for last week’s Jim Danner Invitational, where they finished seventh, and then remained in Oregon during the interim, training and getting ready for another effort at Adidas. Rested and no longer travel-weary, they could be formidable. Marist OR is coming off a confidence-building win at the Mariman Invite, and West Salem OR is fresh off a win in the Boys Div 2 race at Danner; both will be hoping to make a push toward the front here.

It appears as if none of last year’s Adidas top-ten boys return to defend, so expect to see Central Catholic’s Taylor Morgan (13th at Danner - 15:43) and Samot Turina (20th at Danner - 15:57) near the front, likely joined by Jesuit’s top gun, Brian Manning (18th at Danner - 15:53), and Kodiak’s leader, Alaska state champ Trevor Dunbar (16th at Danner - 15:50).


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