BANDON — This wasn’t the plan.
The Bandon girls cross country team — that head coach Brent Hutton believes has a chance at the state title in two years and a top-three finish next year — wasn’t supposed to compete for a trophy at this season’s state meet.
But with the Tigers overachieving on the season and some key teams not making the state meet, Bandon now has a realistic shot at a top-four finish at Saturday’s state cross country meet at Lane Community College.
“The girls have been a complete surprise,” said Hutton. “The beginning of the year our goal was to get to state. At the beginning of the year, our state was districts. It was like, we’re going to peak for districts, just kill everything like finish empty, if we make it to state, we’ll just finish last, who cares.”
After being ranked seventh at the 3A/2A/1A level, the team’s chances at a top-four finish changed after the District Three meet. District Three includes No. 1 ranked Burns along with No. 2 Enterprise, No. 4 Heppner and No. 5 Union. Burns won the meet, and are the favorites on Saturday, while Union just edged out Enterprise and Heppner.
With two schools out of the way, Bandon moved into the fifth spot by default. One spot ahead of the Tigers is Lakeview, the team that beat Bandon by six points at the district meet.
“I sort of feel like I’m maybe little greedy but I would love them to have a trophy,” said Hutton.
Leading the way for the Tigers is sophomore Holly Hutton. After taking 19th at state last year as an individual, Hutton is excited about the prospect of racing with a full team on Saturday.
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“We want to place as a team and get a trophy. We really think we can get this and we’re encouraging everybody to get up there,” she said. “Think about when you’re running not just yourself but think about your team. When you’re dying know that your other teammates are out there trying just as hard as I am and I need to try harder.”
Also back at state for the second time is Shannon Smith who finished 24th last year at the state meet. It has been Smith, a senior, and freshman Danielle McLain holding down the second and third spots for Bandon throughout the year.
“It’s kind of very stressful, actually,” Smith said of the state meet. “I just kind of let it out in my run. Not in an aggressive way or something, just like a nervous run. If I get nervous I feel like I run better so I’m actually kind of glad that I’m nervous because of adrenaline and stuff.”
McClain is also feeling some nerves heading to her first state meet.
“There’s a lot of high expectations that have been set,” she said. “Kind of a lot of pressure to do your best and PR but at the same time there isn’t because it’s not a super-fast course.”
Bandon’s team is rounded out by Aunika Miller, Hannah Wayne, Hannah Blackard and Kylie Barker.
The girls will be the first on the course Saturday, racing at 10 a.m., followed by the Class 2A-1A boys at 10:35.
Admission for the meet, which includes a total of nine races across all classifications, is $10 for adults and $5 for students.