Sept. 15, 2021 — Coming in as the favorite for the 4A cross country championship means that most races the Vikings enter they will expect to win. The first race of the season, the Ash Creek Cross Country Festival on Sept. 11, may be the only exception.
The race, at Western Oregon University in Monmouth, featured some of the best teams the state, most from the divisions above Siuslaw’s. The top three teams from 6A for both boys and girls were there, along with a who’s who of the best cross country programs in the state. Though the Vikings didn’t finish at the top, Siuslaw could take pride in the fact that for the boys, their 11th place finish was tops for 4A schools and the girls’ 18th place only put them behind Marist and Phoenix for teams from their division.
Siuslaw Coach Chris Johnson understood what his team was getting into.
“It's just really tough and we don't ever really run that well there for some reason,” Johnson said. “There are some of the best teams in the country. There are nationally ranked teams. We’re going against huge schools.”
According to Johnson, for some of the of the Vikings top runners, a race like this is great.
“For Jack Hughes, Sam Ulrich and Rylee Colton, because they're standouts, they're ready to rock no matter how big the schools are or what the competition is,” said Johnson. “For some of our younger athletes, it’s like going into a tornado, but it’s something they have to experience to grow. Sometimes you’re going to have to go into the tornado.”
Hughes, a junior, was the top runner for the Viking boys. He finished in 16:29.60 for the 5000-meter race. He was followed close behind by Ulrich with a time of 16:33.60.
“Sam is a junior and he's tough, always competes. He had a great race. He ran really smart, and he almost caught Jack. Those guys give us a great one-two punch,” Johnson said.
Next for Siuslaw was juniors Kyle Hughes and Jacob Blankenship, who ran 17:05.60 and 18:20.60 respectively. Rounding out the Viking boys runners were a trio of sophomores, Dylan Jensen, Talen Ross and Brayden Linton.
For the Viking girls, the top runner was senior Rylee Colton who finished 5000 meters in 20:56.40
Said Johnson, “Rylee, who was fifth place at state last year … was great. Her first mile was not where she needed to be, but she moved up great after that. After the race, we talked, and both agreed that she can be more aggressive.”
The rest of the Siuslaw girls team runners were all underclassmen. Freshman Addison McNeill, running her first high school race, finished next for the Viks at 22:48.40 followed by sophomore Jane Lacouture at 22:56.40. Freshman Mya Wells and Macy McNeill were next with Corduroy Holbrook rounding it out the Siuslaw runners.
Johnson was impressed by these first time competitors.
“For three of them, this was their very first high school cross country race. They ran well. They moved up throughout the race. I think we set ourselves up to continue to get better and better and more and more experienced,” said Johnson.
The coach is not worried about the results of this early competition.
“All these races we have are just chances to run, to train, to get faster, to get experience and to prepare ourselves for when we ‘butter our bread,’ which is the district meet. Then hopefully after that, state. Football, volleyball, baseball or basketball, they must win games in the regular season to advance the postseason. We’re going to the post season regardless of what we do,” said Johnson.
Siuslaw will get another chance at preparation on Saturday at the Northwest Cross Country Classic at Lane Community College in Eugene, the same course where the district and state meets are held.
“The way I write training, we’re not really ready to race fast. Mid to late October is about when we start hitting full stride, so to speak. Having a chance to go to the Northwest Classic and compete against just our own classification and smaller is good, and we get a chance to go to the location of the district and state meet without the grinder of district and state meet competition,” said Johnson. “There's no pressure really. It's also a great course for spectators because you can see everything. It's wide open on the track.”
For results for last weekend and future races, go to www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/School.aspx?SchoolID=183.