(Photos by Rob Griffes/for Siuslaw News)
As Siuslaw cross country coach Chris Johnson explained it, “When it all comes down to it, we train all season for one day — the district meet. That’s a lot of pressure. If you don’t do well that day, you’re done.”
For Siuslaw, that one day was last Thursday, when both the varsity girls and boys teams not only did well, they came home with matching Far West League crowns. The No. 1 finishes made good on predictions of a title sweep that had been circulating for most of the season.
To top it off, they day also included the very first individual boys’ title for senior Isaac Griffes, who clocked in at 16:57.12, which was just 10 seconds short of his PR set little more than a week ago. It was a particularly satisfying finish considering Griffes hadn’t even made the top 12 at last season’s district meet after getting ill just days before.
Though South Umpqua and Marshfield runners took second and third individually, the Vikings claimed fourth through sixth on the legs of sophomores Brendon Jensen (17:13.40) and Kiger Johnson with a personal best time (17:22.33), and senior Jordan Northrop, who also PRd at 17:25.72.
Sophomore Jared Northrop was 12th overall and 6th for the Viks in 18:11.85.
“They made it look easy, but Jonah was running with a fever and Jared had a calf sprain,” said Johnson. “But they did what they’ve done all season and stepped up for each other when it matters.
“And today it mattered most.”
Though Jensen has led the Vikings all season, followed by Griffes and either Kiger Johnson or Northrop vying for third, today’s finishing sequence was completely different. According to Chris Johnson, it’s the group’s ability to be almost interchangeable that is its strength.
“Any one of our top four runners could have won today, but today it was Isaac who took the lead because it’s what needed to happen,” said Johnson. “And Jordan, who has been our sixth guy most of the season, stepped it up because we needed him to.
“The order changed, but the end result was the same, which is pretty impressive.”
In the girls’ race, sophomore Hannah Rannow led the Lady Vikings with a second-place finish individually in a time of 20:08.33.
Freshman Brea Blankenship was the second Siuslaw runner and sixth individually to cross the finish (20:23.96), followed by sophomore Anne Wartnik with PR time of 20:30.85 for 7th place.
“Anne ran a picture-perfect race,” said Johnson. “She was patient and just kept moving up the whole time.”
Fellow sophomore Chloe Madden finished ninth (20:59.69) and freshman Gracie Freudenthal took 14th place (21:43.75) to finish out the team’s top five.
Senior Kaylee Graham was 20th overall and sixth for the Viks with a time of 22:36.53.
“The girls came in fired up, with a strategy that didn’t really go according to plan.” Johnson said. “Even though they won, they were a little disappointed. I just told them to take what they learned here and bring it to the state meet.”
The girls team took the title with a 27-point advantage over second-place South Umpqua, 38-55. North Bend was a close third place (58), followed by Marshfield (70).
In the boys’ division, the Vikings came in with 28 points, followed by Marshfield (49), North Bend (86), South Umpqua (99) and Brookings-Harbor (116).
“I’m proud of them,” said Johnson, who will take both teams to the OSAA 4A State Championships on Nov. 4. “Both teams were really on-point in both races. Now, we’ll get ready for the other race that matters most. If everyone is healthy, there’s no telling what order they’ll cross the finish line in.”
The state meet will take place at Lane Community College in Eugene.