Sept. 18, 2019 — In a close race for first, the Siuslaw girls cross country team took its first win of the season in the 5,000 Meters 1A - 4A Varsity match the at Northwest Classic on Saturday. The team scored 102 points overall, followed closely by Tillamook with 107.
The team’s top runner was senior Hannah Rannow, who took third place overall with a time of 18:57.07.
“Hanna is amazing. She’s one of those kids who, when you tell her something, she’s going to do exactly what you say,” said Siuslaw cross country coach Chris Johnson. “We talked about her being closer to some of the leaders to give herself a chance to sort of reel those people in. That was a little bit of a shift in race strategy for us. For her to run under 19 minutes on that course with what we’ve done training wise is pretty awesome.”
Brea Blankenship was also a standout, coming in 14th with a time of 20:47.17, while “there was a huge breakout performance for Gracie Freudenthal,” who came in 36th overall.
“Gracie is such a talented track athlete. She is obviously a state champion in the hurdles and all-state in track. But doing hurdles is a lot different than running the 5,000. We just needed Gracie to accept the fact that she can be a great cross country runner too.”
The team’s win was far from assured, particularly with a string of setbacks as of late.
“Chloe Madden, who was our fourth girl last year at the state meet and was an all-state athlete, had an accident and some ankle injuries,” Johnson said. “It’s been a struggle for her to get some consistent training this year. That’s a big factor.”
Madden finished in 70th place with a 23:46.69 time.
“And then Rylee Colton, who had a standout freshman year as well, has had some issues — and so we really weren’t full strength until Saturday,” said Johnson. Colton fared better with a 30th place finish and a 21:48.85 time.
“I think it’s the first time they got together as a group and raced as a full unit,” Johnson explained.
And the first half of the race was problematic. When asked where they were ranked during the half-time mark, Johnson replied, “I don’t know, left out? They were out. It was frustrating, but I think it was my fault. I kept talking about having a great second half, but you can’t have a great second half at the expense of a slower first half. The math is the math.”
But by the second half, things began to turn around.
“That’s the good thing about cross country,” Johnson said. “If you stay in the moment, there’s lots of time to make up for lack of execution at the beginning. They’re experienced enough to know that they made a calculated mistake and then they just fixed it. They righted the ship.”
When runners started crossing the finish line and the scores were tallied, the Viks were in first place overall, but the announcer warned that the lead was tenuous and that the ranking could change at any time. But as each runner came in, the score stood.
“You have to be cognizant of what we’re doing pace-wise,” Johnson said. “You can’t necessarily look at the field and know that’s the right pace. You have to feel it for yourself, which has always been the hallmark of our program — kids understanding their own physiology and their own body systems. I think the girls just had a lapse.”
Johnson pointed out that it was the first race back for Colton and Madden, and that it takes a certain amount of racing to figure out a racer’s own metric.
“Overall, it was good,” Johnson said. “It will be something we can learn from.”
As for the future, Johnson is keeping expectations in check for the Viks, ranked second in the state.
“It just so happens that number one is Marist, and they’re the defending state champions and we raced them last week — and they killed us,” Johnson said. “To beat them, it’s going to take some improvement from all of our girls, and they know that. But every day is just another day to prepare for when it matters most. We feel confident that we can be a trophy-caliber team. Just like last year.”
And meets like these are only primers for what really matters.
“The reality is, none of these races make any difference,” Johnson said. “These races are fun, but the reality is, it doesn’t mean anything. We get a prize and we go on the bus happy, but it’s just one more opportunity to prepare ourselves for what really matters — the championship season, which starts at the district meet. We can’t talk about the state meet because we haven’t qualified yet.
“We just need to make sure we try and win every day and make the process go from there.”