(Photo by Rob Griffes/for Siusaw News)
Unlike most people, members of the Siuslaw High School cross country team are hoping for rain today. That’s because, for Siuslaw, inclement weather is an element that plays to the advantage of Viking runners. And in a pair of races today that will determine the state’s best 4A cross country teams, a little rain could be the advantage Siuslaw needs to come home with state hardware.
“Weather is a mindset. If it starts raining, our kids get excited,” said Viking cross country program head coach Chris Johnson, whose teams have collected so many state trophies over the last two decades that the case resembles something from the TV show “Hoarders.”
A little over a week ago, on Oct. 26, Siuslaw swept the Far West League district meet, following through on predictions of dual crowns for Siuslaw’s boys and girls teams.
Today, both teams will be on hand when the state starting pistol goes off and the top 4A runners and teams from throughout Oregon race the 5,000-meter course at Lane Community College in Eugene.
“Getting to the state meet isn’t something that’s new for this program, but it’s new to for these teams,” said Johnson, whose underclassmen-dominated rosters include only a handful of runners — Hannah Rannow, Chloe Madden, Anne Wartnik and Isaac Griffes — who have run at the state level. “We set our sights on winning the conference, and now they’re set on state. If we execute our strategy and run our race, we have a good chance in both races to come home with something for the trophy case.”
With Griffes’ winning the individual boys league title last week by a solid margin, the Viking boys are coming into today’s meet with an extra boost of momentum.
However, neither team is at 100 percent as they deal with illness and injuries.
“Fortunately, our strength is our depth,” Johnson said. “State is the end game, and we’ve been preparing for it all season. We’ve had lots of kids go to the state meet with the sniffles or run with a fever. Being a champion is about being your best even when it’s not your best day.”
In both races, Tillamook is heavily favored to win the state title, with the field opening up after that.
Though prognosticators have the Vikings placing among the top four in both races, with the girls predicted to finish third and the boys fourth, Johnson said there are a lot of variables that contribute to the final outcome.
Those variables range from mental preparation and experience, to course conditions and eating properly before the race.
And of course, the weather — something that Johnson and his team are hoping includes a chance of, well... reign.
Races begin at 11:15 a.m. with the varsity girls, followed by the boys at 11:50 a.m.