Siuslaw runners sweep season-opener

The state's latest metrics have given the green light for outdoor sports beginning this week, including cross country, soccer and football.

After months of uncertainty, the Siuslaw High School cross country team was finally able to take to the course this past Saturday (Feb. 13) at the Siltcoos Outlet south of Florence.

The dual meet against Bandon High School was Siuslaw’s first of this school year, with runners and coaches glad to hear the sound of running shoes set in motion for competition.

“It was nice just to be able to compete again, it’s been a long time for all of us,” said Siuslaw head coach Chris Johnson. “Just to put the uniforms on and have a chance to compete against another school… It was all kind of new, having a dual meet. We haven’t had a dual meet here since I was in high school — but it was fun.”

The dual meet is one of the health guidelines currently in place, which require leagues to involve no more than two teams per meet.

“We’re used to competing with about 20 teams at the same time, so the dynamic of a dual meet is a lot different,” said Johnson. “I think in a normal year, that would have been sort of an anticlimactic type of an event because it was so small. But I think just because we haven’t had an opportunity to do anything for so long, it was pretty cool.”

The girls team scored 15 points overall, with junior Rylee Colton finishing first and coming in at 20:30.9, followed by senior Brea Blankenship in third place overall with a time of 21:22.7.     

The team’s spirits were high, and the girls were excited to compete once again. Senior Gracie Freudenthal, who finished sixth (23:00.9) said, “It feels good, it feels like it’s not real. We’ve been training so much, but this is our first race; it’s exciting! And once we get our first race over it’s smooth sailing.”

Freshman Jane Lacouture, who placed seventh in 23:05.2, said the race provided extra incentive after such a long delay. “Because we’ve been practicing so much, now having a race provides more motivation to keep practicing and keep working hard.”

Finishing eighth was freshman Corduroy Holbrook, whose time of 23:24.4 pushed the Vikings toward their winning score.

This was the first meet the Vikings held a meet at Siltcoos Outlet.

“It’s obviously a little bit different. We’ve never had a meet out there before but we practice out there all of the 

time,” said Johnson. “You lay out a cross country course [and] it’s really kind of hard to visualize how it’s all going to play out. So, it was a little bit nerve-wracking just to make sure everything was going to work — and it was a little bit wet, so some of the footing was a little bit slippery.”

Despite the new course and the rain, which was coming down heavily at the finish of the girls’ race, the team persevered and ended strong.

The boys team also finished on top, defeating Bandon 25-30, with five runners finishing in the top 10. As with the girls, the Vikings had runners come in first and third, with junior Chad Hughes clocking in at 17:24.7, and sophomore Samuel Ulrich crossing the finish in 17:42.1.

Sophomore Kyle Hughes (18:17.0), senior Jaxson Jensen (18:29.1) and senior Ryan Jennings (19:03.8) placed fifth, sixth and 10th, respectively.

With such a positive beginning to their season, Viking runners from both teams said they can’t wait to compete again.

“All in all, it was a good time,” said Johnson. “We had fun and we got a chance to compete again. We’re looking forward to more opportunities as the year progresses,” said Johnson.

Siuslaw competes again March 4, when the Vikings host Tillamook High School at Florence Golf Links beginning at 3 p.m. As with all races this season, no spectators can attend the meets.