Nov. 9, 2021 — In a rare feat, the Siuslaw Viking cross country teams completed a sweep and took both the boys and girls 4A state titles at the OSAA 4A State Cross Country Championships on Nov. 6 at Lane Community College in Eugene.
The 2004 season was the only other time the Viks have, officially, claimed both titles in the same year.
The Vikings, a perennial cross country powerhouse in the state of Oregon, came in the favorite in the boys race. The girls, on the other hand, would need to pull off an upset to get their 4A title.
Marist was the favorite for the girls as they had just beaten Siuslaw at the Sky-Em League Championships on Oct. 28. It would require strong finishes by all Viking runners if they were to achieve a title.
Senior Rylee Colton, veteran of the state meet and unquestioned leader of the Siuslaw girls squad, ran a great race, finishing fifth overall with a time of 19:39.9.
Next, the Vikings showed why the future appears to be extremely bright for girls cross country as the remaining female finishers are all freshman or sophomores.
Freshman Addison McNeill ran her best race of the season at the best time and finished 12th with a time of 20:28.1, shaving over two minutes from the time she ran at the Sky-Em meet the previous weekend.
Next was sophomore Corduroy Holbrook, who was 18th, and achieved her personal record for the year in the most important race of the season with a time of 20:43.7.
Sophomore Jane Lacouture (31st, 21:17.1) finished just ahead of teammates freshmen Maya Wells (32nd, 21:18.6) and Macy McNeill (45th, 22:18.9) to round things out for SHS.
Sophomore Emily Tubbs of La Grande won the race with a time of 19:04.6 and figures to be a challenge for Siuslaw at statewide meets for the next two years. Colton’s main rival from the Sky-Em, Jennifer Tsai of Marist, finished fourth in her final high school cross country race.
Showing the importance of every runner’s finish, the Vikings barely clinched the 4A title by beating second place Philomath by just one point, 85 to 86. Next was Marist with 93 then La Grande with 111.
Viking Coach Chris Johnson was impressed by how his team has progressed throughout the season.
“If you know these girls, they have persevered,” said Johnson. “Every day, it was like, ‘You’ve got to believe in yourselves.’ To see all this talent percolating to the surface — it was just a matter of having experience after experience to build their confidence. They had a different look today.”
The Vikings were considered the favorite for the boys race. In this, too, they did not disappoint.
As has been the case all season, just ahead of the strong SHS team’s runners, was Marshfield’s Alexander Garcia-Silver. He won the individual race in dominating fashion with a time of 16:02.2.
Garcia-Silver may have had a relatively easy time claiming the individual title, but the Siuslaw boys team (42 points) had a similarly dominant performance in the team race, doubling up their next closest finishers Sisters, who finished with 88 points. Tied for third were Cottage Grove and Valley Catholic with 93 points each.
Just behind Garcia-Silver and top finisher for the Viks was senior Chad Hughes, who was second in the race with a time of 16:30.7. Barely missing out on third, fourth place was junior Sam Ulrich who finished in 16:49.95, just two one-hundredths of a second behind third-place finisher Elwood Hosking of Phoenix, who finished in 16:49.93.
Junior Kyle Hughes was next for Siuslaw. He was seventh with a time of 17:05.7. Sophomores Braydon Linton and Dylan Jensen followed for the Viks. Linton finished 22nd in 17:55.6. Jensen was 24th, finishing in 18:04.6, and claimed that spot with a heroic rush to the finish line to pass 25th place finisher Ben Hernandez of Philomath at the very last second.
Completing a stellar team finish for the Viking boys was junior Jacob Blankenship (30th, 18:13.3) and sophomore Talan Ross (37th, 18:34.4).
Johnson credits those runners a little farther down the finish list for giving his team the team title.
“We are not good because of our top three,” Johnson said. “We have enough depth in our fourth through seventh guys to weather a lot of storms.”
He also thanked his two assistant coaches.
“I give credit to our coaching staff,” Johnson said. “Amy Ford and Jack Butler have been here every step of the way, to instill that we could do this. And they did it. We go to work every day hoping for the best result possible.”
This figures to be just the beginning of the excitement for Siuslaw runners in the 2021-22 school year. Most of the Viking cross country participants will also race in the spring, which will help to make the SHS track team one of the early favorites for both the girls and boys 4A state titles.