Oct. 26, 2019 — The Siuslaw Vikings took to the golfing field on Tuesday night as the annual Run for the Brownies, a 3,000-meter run at Florence Golf Links.
The meet finds runners from Siuslaw, Waldport and Pacific running in co-ed teams for the grand prize of… a plate of expertly cooked brownies.
“It’s pretty low key, which is kind of nice,” Johnson said. “I know there’s some teams out there at big invitationals, but I just found that something low key, at home, and with a shorter distance with some novelty is just what the doctor ordered.”
The event kept both boys and girls Vikings limber enough for this Thursday big Sky-Em District Championship, which will determine whether or Siuslaw will make it to state. And the competition is brutal; out of six teams, only the top two make it state — and only the top five runners qualify for the individual competition.
“If all five of the top people are on the two teams that go, then no additional qualifiers make it,” Johnson explained.
No second chances, no padding from previous wins. Just one single race determines a team’s status for state.
“It’s almost a dual meet between us and Marist,” Johnson said. “If their No. 1 beats our No. 1, and their No. 2 two beats our No. 2, and [so on], we lose. We have to break up their really powerful top five.”
And it’s not going to be easy.
“Marist is at the highest level and they have a great coach and it’s always going to be a battle,” Johnson said. “You just have to execute and do your thing and go from there.”
Is Johnson confident that they can do well? He laughed at the question.
“I can’t control what others do,” he said. “We’re going to play our game and see what happens.”
But so far, the boys and girls teams appear to be on the right track, with the girls showing well at the Warner Pacific meet two weeks ago.
“In a way, Warner Pacific was also kind of frustrating,” Johnson said. “It takes us to this point in the season where kids are able to run their fastest. We try and find a course where there’s competition that’s going to bring that out of them and where the course is relatively fast and flat. That course is all of those things, but it rained so much that it got muddy and was pretty slippery. We just didn’t get the times that we wanted to see because of the weather and the conditions.”
Still, the girls took first place overall, with Hannah Rannow finishing fourth, Brea Blankenship taking 25th, followed by Rylee Colton in 26th and a breakout performance for Gracie Fruedenthal, who took 27th.
“The girls are strong,” Johnson said. "This is one of the better teams that we’ve ever had. I think all of them had great seasons so far. They’re competitive and confident. They know that we have to be a lot better to beat someone like Marist, but that’s the name of the game. You train really hard and you put yourself in the best position to be successful and then you go out there. If you have to go out there against a team that looks better than you on paper, then you just roll up your sleeves and get to work and you see how it all shakes out.”
The boys team is a different situation. At Warner, they placed sixth overall, but that doesn’t reflect the quality of the runners.
“Our eighth guy is better than most teams’ fifth guy,” Johnson said. “But we’ve only had one person who’s been finishing in the top three or four spots, and that’s Brendon Jensen. For our team to be competitive at the district level, if we get there, our pack has to move up, and they know that.”
Johnson said that if history is any indication, the team has a tendency to move up relative to other teams this late in the year, but only time will tell.
“I think our boys have gotten better,” he said. “I think our day in the sun still remains to be seen, but all our pieces are there. We do have a tendency to slow-play things. I think this is as deep a boys team as I can remember having. You kind of roll the dice at the state meet, if you get there. And you sort of see things shake out.”
So, until Thursday, the players are practicing with a combination of nervousness and confidence.
“We have a formula that we have in terms of preparation and how we decide to race postseason, which has been successful in the past, but that doesn’t mean anything this year. We have to go in and take care of business and do what we can do. Then we see how the chips fall.”
The Sky-Em District Championship begins with the girls race at noon on Thursday, Oct. 31, followed by the boys race at 12:45 p.m. Both races will take place at at lane Community College in Eugene.