Eagles XC teams look to find stride at district

All the training over the past two months boils down to one final meet for the HRV cross-country teams, as they run today at the Intermountain Conference district competition in Bend.

The workouts are over, the lineups are set, and today is the day to put everything on the line.

“We’re all pretty pumped up for the last meet of the year,” said sophomore Chris Jennings, who will run in the No. 6 spot on the boys varsity team. “I think we’re all ready for the season to be over, and none of us wants to finish as losers. Top four is our goal, and I’d put money on it.”

Confidence was high on both the boys and girls teams Thursday as they ran their final training exercises at the high school.

“It’s a tougher conference this year, but we think we can perform well as a team,” said senior No. 1 Christy Paul, the 2001 4A state champion. “This is the meet we’ve been working toward, and it’s time to give it everything we’ve got.”

Paul said she is focused on winning the individual district title first, and won’t start thinking about the state race (Nov. 2 at Lane Community College in Eugene) until today’s race is over.

She also believes her teammates have what it takes to finish among the top two teams in the IMC, which would mean a second-straight state bid for the Eagles.

And while the challenge won’t be easy, coach Kristen Uhler has instilled an aura of confidence in her runners that should carry them through.

“Believe in the training we’ve done and stick with the plan that’s been working for us,” she told her runners before Thursday’s practice. “You’ve done all the physical work, now it’s time to prepare yourselves mentally. Don’t let your mind get in the way of your body.”

Joining Paul on the varsity roster are fellow seniors Allison Byers, Joyce Yang and Michi Aniwanter, an Austrian exchange student who will run No. 7 on the team. Also running varsity for the Eagles are freshmen Jennifer Jefferies, Jenna Fisher and Brisa Jessup, the team’s No. 2 runner.

“I don’t feel a lot of pressure,” Jessup said. “I’m just going to run my best race and hope to finish with a PR.”

Joining Jennings on the boys varsity roster will be sophomores Alex Jimenez and Jess Jennings, junior Jon Wherry, and seniors Jon Gehrig, Eric Avila and Jeff Fisher.

“This is a pretty tough conference,” said Fisher, one of three team captains. “The Hermiston Invite (Sept. 7) showed us what to expect, and we know it’s not going to be easy to get past Hermiston, Mountain View and Bend. But top four is realistic.”

The boys have had an up-and-down year, but continue to post PR’s on a regular basis, which has been a huge confidence booster.

“Each one of us is going into the race with the idea that we can go to state,” Fisher said. “We’ll just go out with the top seven and see what happens.”

The top seven individuals and the top two teams qualify for the Nov. 2 state meet. There are eight Intermountain Conference teams, and two — Hermiston and Mountain View — are traditionally state front-runners.

For a complete wrap-up of the 2002 IMC district meet, see the Oct. 30 edition of the Hood River News.

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