Nov. 8, 2022 — The Viking boys and girls cross country teams both dropped down to the 3A competition for the 2022 season, meaning a whole new group of runners at their competitions throughout the fall.
This was especially true on Nov. 5 when Siuslaw made the trip to Lane Community College in Eugene for the second straight weekend to compete in the 2022 OSAA Cross Country State Championships. Last year SHS, was a 4A team. This year the boys raced in the 3A division and the girls 3A/2A/1A.
Viking Coach Chris Johnson knew that just because his teams were competing in a lower classification didn’t mean they would have it easy by any means.
“There’s some really great programs in the lower classifications,” said Johnson. “Dan Moody at
Enterprise is amazing. Steve Sheehy at Union is amazing. There are tons of great coaches in the classification. It’s just a gauntlet and though these are smaller schools, it only takes five kids for a cross country team to be really good, so we knew we were in for a battle.”
Any concerns that the teams and runners that the Siuslaw cross country team would compete against in their new classification would be more than the Viks could handle were waylaid on Saturday.
The more experienced of the two teams, the Viking boys, won the state title, their third straight. Seniors Sam Ulrich and Chad Hughes wrapped up their high school harrier careers with impressive fourth and fifth places finishes, respectively.
The girls team, which has no seniors on the roster, took third with a freshman, Alison Hughes, leading the pack for the Viking girls.
The boys race was a battle of experienced runners. Seven of the top 10 finishers were seniors, including the top three. Benjamin Bourne of Santiam Christian won the race in 15:57.2. Next was Wyatt Montgomery of La Pine (16:00.1) followed by Oregon Episcopal’s Olin Gilster, who was third in 16:09.1.
The SHS boys came into the 3A race as favorites and did not disappoint, putting all five of their scoring runners in the top 20.
At district, the Viking top three was Hughes, Linton, Ulrich. Those same three were at the top at state, but they shook up the order a bit.
On Saturday, Ulrich was top finisher for Siuslaw when he crossed the finish line in 16:38.7 to earn a fifth-place medal. Next, in sixth, was K. Hughes in 16:42.8.
Junior Brayden Linton finished 13th in 17:15.3. Senior Jacob Blankenship was next for Siuslaw in 18th (17:38.4). Rounding out the scoring runners for the Viks was junior Dylan Jensen, who finished 20th in 17:45.3.
“Jake Blankenship, Brayden Linton and Dylan Jensen closed so hard,” said Johnson. “At the two-mile mark, we were ahead of Valley Catholic by a point, and I was like boy this is going to come down to the last mile. The boys just responded. Sam and Kyle pulled ahead of Valley Catholics’ top two. We yelled at Jake, Brayden and Dylan to pass someone once they got on the track and they did. Those guys are warriors.”
Two freshmen were the final finishers for Siuslaw, Camden Linton (43rd, 18:30.2) and Kale Jensen (49th, 18:45.3).
The excellent team performance earned Siuslaw its third straight state team championship and first at the 3A level. This is the first boys team, in any sport, to ever win three straight state titles at Siuslaw.
The Vikings scored 52. Next, in second, was Valley Catholic with 75, then Santiam Christian who scored 84.
The younger Siuslaw girls squad also ran a great race in their first state meet in their new division.
The girls race was a combination of the 3A, 2A and 1A classifications. The individual competition was dominated by juniors, with the top three all in their third year of high school. They were, in order of finish, Daisy Lalonde of East Linn Christian (18:43.7), Lauren Tittel of Oregon Episcopal (18:55.2) and Jaya Simmons of Valley Catholic (19:12.5).
“Alison Hughes has been amazing all year long,” said Johnson. “I asked her, ‘Where do you see yourself on Saturday?’ She said, ‘I’m gonna win.’”
She later changed her answer to the more realistic “top ten — and almost got there,” Johnson said. “She’s been refreshing.”
Just behind her was Holbrook in 14th (20:13.2).
“Corduroy Holbrook, the growth she’s had this year has been incredible,” said Johnson.
Maya Wells, a sophomore, was next for the Viks when she finished the race in 20:50.2 to finish 26th. Freshman Adylin Holbrook was 35th in 20:59.8. Junior Jane Lacouture was next in 47th (21:45.6), followed by another freshmen, Abigail Jones (21:50.9) then sophomore Addison McNeill (22:17.6).
“Adylin Holbrook started the year as our seventh girl and came on strong,” said Johnson. “Maya Wells ran a really great race after some issues early in the season.”
Though they did not place a runner in the top 10 in the individual standings, Enterprise won the team competition with 63 points. In second was Oregon Episcopal with 84 — with Siuslaw in third with 95.
After medal and trophy presentations at the Lane Community College track, Johnson and his teams headed back to Florence.
In what is fast becoming a tradition for Siuslaw’s state championship athletic teams, the Viking team buses were greeted by friends and family as they arrived in town. Fans lined the streets around Florence, holding up signs and cheering the arrival of the three-time state champion boys cross country team and the third-place girls team.
In this year filled with changes, the end of the cross country season means the completion of the first fall sport for Siuslaw for the 2022-23 school year. If Saturday was any indication, this year will be a thrilling one as the Vikings compete in the same sports they always have but against new athletes and teams in their attempt to bring home even more OSAA State Championship trophies.
For full results of both races, go to www.athletic.net/CrossCountry/meet/208196#183.