High school runners from around the South Coast — competing in the 1A/2A, 3A, 4A and 5A classifications — will soon be headed to Eugene for Saturday’s OSAA Cross Country State Championships.
After last week’s district meets, runners from Bandon, Brookings-Harbor, Marshfield, North Bend and Siuslaw will be racing at Lane Community College.
For Bandon, both the boys and girls teams will be making the trip. The boys got first at the district meet and are now eyeing a top-two finish led by seniors Isaac Cutler and Aero Franklin.
St. Stephens Academy of Beaverton, a tiny school with a number of strong runners, is the favorite and Bandon also will be battling traditional power Union.
After taking second at last week’s district meet behind Lakeview, the Bandon girls team is hoping to finish top-four in the team race. The girls are led by sophomore Holly Hutton up front and the duo of senior Shannon Smith and freshman Danielle McLain at runners two and three.
“There’s nothing I can do to make them faster (this week) but there’s a lot of things I can do to make them slower. So it is sort of a nerve-wracking week for a coach,” said Bandon head coach Brent Hutton.
At the 3A level, the Brookings-Harbor boys followed top-runner Kaleb Barnes to a district team title. Barnes currently has the 16th fastest time in Class 3A this season. Zachary and Everest Abblitt are the team’s two and three runners and are looking to help the team finish above their seventh place projection.
Marshfield’s Aaron Prince will be the lone Pirate competing at the Class 4A level. After taking third at the Sky-Em District meet, Prince qualified as an individual. Prince has the 11th fastest time this season and last ran at the state meet as a sophomore when he took 38th.
With a pair of fourth-place team finishes at the Midwestern League meet, North Bend will have both the boys and girls teams racing on Saturday. The top runner for the Bulldogs is freshman Alex Garcia-Silver, who carries the 12th fastest time going into the 5A meet. Celeste Sinko and Sara Slade are the top runners for North Bend on the girls side.
That the Bulldogs get to run at state is a tribute to how much the team has improved through the season.
"It wasn't even on my radar," Sinko said of the state meet. "We had so many new people. We had basically a whole new team."
The South Coast school with the best chance of high finishes Saturday is Siuslaw, with its girls and boys both coming off one-point victories over Marist Catholic at the Sky-Em League meet last week.
The Viking girls feature one of the top runners in the classification in senior Hannah Rannow and a strong supporting cast.
"I'm really excited for the team," Rannow said after the Vikings had all five of their scoring runners finish in the top 10 at the district meet.
Siuslaw's boys are led by Brendon Jensen in what could be the most competitive race of the day, with Sisters, Philomath, the Vikings and Marist Catholic all in the running for the title.
The day of races starts at 10 a.m. with the 3A/2A/1A girls followed by the 2A/1A boys at 10:35 a.m. The 3A boys will race at 11:10 a.m. followed by the 4A girls at 11:45 a.m. and the 4A boys at 12:20 p.m. After a break in the action the 5A girls will race at 1:45 p.m. and the 5A boys at 2:20 p.m. They will be followed by the highly competitive Class 6A races to close out the day.
The Class 6A girls race features the top-ranked team in the country, Summit, along with talented squads from both Lincoln and Jesuit. Summit's program is so deep that Azza Borovicka Swanson ran the 11th fastest time in the state for 6A runners in the JV race at the district meet last week. She is not listed among the team's seven runners for state.
Tickets to the state meet are $10 for adults and $5 for students.