After two months of preparation, the HRV cross-country teams finally got a chance to test their mettle against the Intermountain Conference’s best on Saturday at Drake Park in Bend.
And, while it wasn’t either team’s best performance, most everyone came away with a positive feeling about the district meet.
“I thought I did alright,” said sophomore Jess Jennings, the boys No. 3 runner who finished first on the team in 18th place overall. “I have two more years here and I want to improve. I wish that the team could have competed better, but they all tried really hard. Today just wasn’t our day.”
Jennings and the Eagles finished fifth out of eight teams, and while their performance wasn’t earth-shattering, they finished right around where they were supposed to in the state’s most competitive conference.
“The 2002 cross-country season was one of ups and downs,” coach Rich Hedges said. “We have run well at times and struggled at times. District was one of those struggles.”
The Eagles missed fourth-place Summit by just two points (147 to 145), and had seniors Jon Gehrig and Eric Avila been totally healthy, the results may have been different.
Sophomore No. 1 Alex Jimenez finished just seven seconds behind Jennings in 23rd place, while Gehrig finished 32nd overall, Jeff Fisher 36th overall, and Avila 38th overall.
Sophomore Chris Jennings (42nd) and junior Jon Wherry (50th) rounded out the varsity results.
“Our No. 1 and 2 runners ran hard but didn’t have their day,” Hedges said. “But Jess Jennings competed really well, and the second half of the race was all his.”
In the girls race, senior No. 1 Christy Paul led the entire way, but was overtaken by 800-meter state champion Emily McMahon in the race’s final 800 meters, and had to settle for second.
“She was pretty happy that she beat me,” Paul said. “But I’m not thinking about it too much. She had everything going for her that day. It was her home course, she’s used to the elevation, and she was the defending IMC champ. All those things played into it.”
Paul believes that she has yet to run her best race, and is gearing up this week to defend her state title in Eugene on Saturday.
“I’m just going to focus on what I know I can do,” she said. “I need to remain confident and get any the negative thoughts out of my head. Right now, I am focused on running an even better race than last year, and my experience on the Lane Community College course should help.”
Girls coach Kristen Uhler remained equally confident in Paul, and said that she can easily put the district race behind her.
“Emily had the advantage,” Uhler said. “She has been in this league longer and this is her home court. She knew when to kick and how to kick. But state is a whole new ball game. Christy just needs to run her own race and she will do great.”
Also performing well at district last weekend were the Eagles’ four super-freshmen. Team No. 2 Brisa Jessup finished 14th overall, while Jennifer Jefferies finished 32nd, Janne Lucas 41st and Jenna Fisher 44th.
Seniors Allison Byers (24th overall) and Joyce Yang (46th overall) rounded out the varsity results. All told, the Eagle girls were good enough to finish fifth in the team competition, just 11 points behind Redmond (113 points).
“It was a great experience for everyone,” Uhler said. “This program has a really bright future, and it’s good to get all these girls some big-race experience as freshmen.”
Also gaining some valuable experience were the girls and boys JV teams, which finished third and fourth, respectively.
For the girls, Junior Caitlin Becker led the girls team with a 14th place overall finish and a time of 23:57. Senior Hannah Kingrey finished 19th overall (24:29) and freshman Christa Chandler crossed the line in 22nd place overall (24:58).
Susi Valle finished 23rd (25:03), Michi Aniwanter 26th (25:24), Chelsea Nance 31st (26:41), Raemi Lucas 32nd (26:42), and Jillian Jones 34th (28:42).
For the fourth-place boys team, sophomore Mat Foster led the way with a 20th place overall finish and a time of 19:47. Graham Hay finished 27th (19:55), Joseph Broschart 30th (20:02), Brian Crosswhite 32nd (20:06), Carlos Quintana 34th (20:17), Ian Meyer 36th (20:24) and Aaron Josephson 38th (20:26).
“We’ve got some maturing to do before next year if we’re to be competitive in the IMC,” Hedges said. “It’s going to be tough to replace our three seniors on varsity, and it will take a little extra commitment from our young guys to keep us near the top.”
The only returning varsity runners for 2003 will be Jimenez, the Jennings brothers and Wherry. Fisher, Avila and Gehrig will graduate in June.