EUGENE — Aaron Prince wasn’t about to let feeling a little off slow him down at the Sky-Em League district cross country meet Thursday.
On a day when Siuslaw’s boys and girls each edged Marist Catholic by one point to take the team titles, Prince made sure Marshfield also would be represented at the state meet on Nov. 9 by finishing third in the boys race.
Marshfield's Bailey Wallack runs during the Sky-Em League district meet Thursday at Lane Community College.
“I didn’t feel good — from the start,” Prince said. “I made it happen.”
Prince led for nearly half the race, then almost dropped back to sixth place and out of the running for a state berth, before recovering to place third in 16 minutes and 34 seconds.
The time was close to his personal best and gave him confidence he can place well in the state meet, too, because he has been consistently fast in recent meets.
“It gives me that reassurance that when I come back in a week for state, I will be sitting all right,” he said.
Prince didn’t necessarily plan to lead the race, but that’s how it played out.
“I was going to run my race,” he said.
He was caught first by Marist’s Wiley Watts and Evan Villano and then, about a quarter mile from the finish, by Cottage Grove’s Jaden Owens. Siuslaw’s Brendon Jensen and Sam Ulrich also were bearing down on him as the runners finished their second trip around ponds and turned toward the track for the finish at Lane Community College.
That’s when Prince started a big finish that briefly moved him up to second place behind Watts, who had pulled away for the win, before the Marshfield senior eventually finished third.
“At that corner, the sharpest corner in the race, I always make a surge,” Prince said. “I thought, ‘This is for all the marbles,’ and didn’t give up.”
Watts finished in 16:11 and Villano in 16:33. Jensen was fourth, a fraction of a second behind Prince, and Ulrich finished in 16:35.
Prince will be competing at state for the first time since his sophomore season, when he had a surprising third-place finish in the old Far West League to help the Pirates earn a team berth to state.
Given the strength of the Siuslaw and Marist programs, it was clear the only way a runner for Marshfield or any other school would advance was by placing in the top five individually.
It still was a good day for the Pirates, coach Steve Delgado said, with multiple runners on both the boys and girls teams having personal bests.
“We’ve had big improvements over the past few weeks,” Delgado said, adding that the Pirates focused on running well individually and earning third place in the team races, which both squads did.
The races for the district titles ended up razor close for Siuslaw and Marist.
In the girls race, Junction City’s Anika Thompson ran away from the field from the start at finished in a blazing 18:01 and the next 10 runners were from either the Vikings or Spartans — the five scoring runners for each team — essentially making the battle a dual meet between the two squads that Siuslaw won 32 points to 33.
Siuslaw’s Hannah Rannow was runner-up (18:41), with Rylee Colton fifth (19:32), Brea Blankenship seventh (19:46), Gracie Freudenthal eighth (19:50) and Chloe Madden 10th (20:06).
Marist Catholic was led by Jennifer Tsai in third (19:02), with Lucy Tsai fourth (19:16), Isabella Zachem sixth (19:41), Emilie Nelson ninth (20:02) and Sally Moore 11th (20:19).
“I’m really proud of my team,” Rannow said, adding that Fruedenthal had a particularly good day with a 50-second personal best.
Rannow added she was a little disappointed to just miss her own personal best, but was eager for another shot at it during the state meet.
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“I’m really excited for the team, and I will try for that PR again,” she said.
For her part, Thompson also was a little disappointed because her big goal for the day was to finish under 18 minutes, but that she was pleased with how she raced.
“I was really hoping to push today,” she said. “I’m happy.”
Siuslaw's Rylee Colton, Brea Blankenship and Gracie Freudenthal run during the Sky-Em League district meet on Thursday at Lane Community College
Marshfield was led by Kaylee Delzotti, who finished 12th in 20:21. Bailey Wallack was 15th (21:31), Jordan Baarstad 21st (22:15), Darynne Huntley 23rd (23:31) and Ellie Delgado 27th (24:17).
Delzotti said the district meet was a good finish for a tough senior season.
“I’m really proud of my team,” she said. “We had such a small group of girls, I just wanted to help build them.
“Seeing them happy makes me happy.”
Wallack, who is a sophomore, agreed the team had a strong showing.
“I felt like we raced good,” she said. “I felt the five months we put into this really helped.
“I’m excited to see what the next two years looks like.”
For Marshfield’s boys, Robert Kliewer was 12th (17:18), Jacob Calvert 21st (18:01), Kyran Erwin 24th (18:19) and Jack Waddington 29th (19:58).
Kliewer, who had a nine-second PR, said he was excited for himself and the team.
“I felt I ran a lot better than I have all season,” he said. “I felt really good. I saw Aaron (Prince) the whole race and I got to the track before he finished.”
Meanwhile, the boys from Marist and Siuslaw were almost as dominant as their girls, with nine of the top 11 finishers coming from the two schools.
Kiger Johnson was eighth (16:53), Kyle Hughes ninth (17:02) and Jaxson Jensen 11th (17:16) for the Vikings.
Meanwhile, Marist’s Villano was sixth (16:42), with Jack Crowell seventh (16:49) and Billy Christiansen 10th (17:08). But Marist’s fifth runner, Charlie Moore, didn’t cross until 14th place (17:24), giving Siuslaw another one-point win, 37-38.
Siuslaw has won a bunch of state titles over the years, but coach Chris Johnson said district is always the first focus.
“I always want to win a league championship,” he said, adding that the number of big finishes was phenomenal, including the fast times by freshmen Ulrich and Hughes and his own son Kiger’s first-ever finish under 17 minutes.
He also credited Marist Catholic for running great, which made the final score so close.
“Our boys and girls knew it was going to be close and they responded,” Johnson said.