CENTRAL POINT — The Crater girls ran their longest race of the cross country season Saturday.
They ran out of the shadow cast by the school's nationally-ranked boys team.
The achievement couldn't be captured with one snapshot. It would take five. First of senior Riley Swanson, who won her second straight Southern Sky Conference individual title in the district meet at Jackson County Expo Park. Then one of runner-up Kayleigh Tyerman. Then of Arianne Lafierre. And Silver Seibert. And Laurie Stoutenburgh.
That's how they finished. In order. One through five. Fifteen points. The best possible showing in team competition. To use parlance of the sport, they dropped the parlance of the sport, they dropped the field.
"I knew they'd be strong," said coach Justin Loftus, "but that was just incredible what they did today. I was speechless. I didn't know what to say. You want to be humble, but I've never seen a team do that before, except maybe Jesuit."
And, he emphasized, this was the conference championships, which included runner-up Ashland, the state's sixth-ranked team, that scored 51 points.
The Crater boys were not without their own success. Junior Zach Elliott won the individual title and, with five of the top nine finishers, the Comets scored 26 points to beat out Ashland, ranked fourth in the state, with 41 points, and third-ranked Klamath Union with 68.
The top two teams advanced to state, as did the top four individuals not on a qualifying team. The state meet is next Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.
The Crater girls are eager to get there.
Noting the lofty status of the boys team, Tyerman said, "That gives us a little motivation. The guys obviously train really hard, and we showed that we work hard, too."
The 5,000-meter course weaves around three ponds at the fairgrounds and is considered good viewing by race standards. On this day, no matter where one caught a glimpse of the leaders, they saw a sea of Comet black. Crater's plan for the first mile was to stay together. Swanson and Tyerman, owners of the conference's best times, held back to spur their teammates.
"We wanted to give them the experience of being in the lead, of having them in front," said Swanson, whose winning time was 19 minutes, 23 seconds — or about 23 seconds off her season's best. "It gives them strength, and they know when they're in the lead, we're all there pushing them."
Crater bunched up nicely, but what surprised Loftus was that the pack moved so far ahead of the field. Even though the 6:10 first mile "wasn't blazing," he said, the Comets ran alone.
It wasn't until the second pass up a short hill three-quarters of the way through that Swanson and Tyerman pulled away. Then it was a matter of in which order they'd finish.
Swanson moved in front and couldn't help but think to last year. She won as a junior over senior teammate Kristen Haga, and she wondered if the same scenario would play out again, only with the junior Tyerman running her down.
Crater runners have a goal: Don't let anyone pass you in the final 600 meters.
"I started my kick just like I was supposed to," said Swanson. "Kayleigh has a much better kick. She's a sprinter. But I ended up having a little more strength."
She was strong through the finishing stretch, then watched Tyerman (19:28), Lafierre (19:41), Seibert (19:43) and Stoutenburgh (19:47) cruise home.
The league championship was the second straight and second overall by the Crater girls.
Elliott led the boys to their second consecutive league crown and fourth overall, needing a spirited sprint to the finish to outduel Klamath Union's Alex Peterson.
Elliott was timed in 16:11 to Peterson's 16:13. Ashland's Matt Miner was third (16:18), followed by Crater's Wyatt Rice-Narusch (16:25) and Josh Elliott (16:35), Zach's brother.
After a slow first mile, Josh Elliott and Curtis Yungen of Crater began to push the pace, dropping foes as they did. As the last 1,000 meters neared, Zach Elliott found himself battling Miner. The latter dropped back, but on came Peterson, who caught Elliott with 400 meters left, passed him with 300 meters to go, then was even with the Comet with 200 meters remaining.
"Then I hit the dirt," said Elliott, referring to the last stretch, "and it was all out."
He thought of two things. One, he didn't have enough kick a couple weeks ago and lost the State of Jefferson race in Ashland. Two, his team practiced 400-meter catch-me-if-you-can repeating sprints recently, and that's what he drew on.
"This is my home course," he said. "I can't let the other guy beat me."
Loftus found it hard to fault a team that competed at such a high level all season and that just claimed district.
He wanted his runners to stay fresh for state, he said, "but I wanted to see more from the guys, too. I was a little surprised we weren't more together and that we were broken up by other teams. We haven't had many bad races, so hopefully this is a wake-up call."
Southern Sky District Meet
At Jackson County Expo, Central Point
TEAM SCORES — Crater 26, Ashland 41, Klamath Union 68, Mazama 119, Eagle Point 126.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS — 1, Zach Elliott, C, 16:11; 2, Alex Peterson, KU, 16:13; 3, Matt Miner, A, 16:18; 4, Wyatt Rice-Narusch, C, 16:25; 5, Josh Elliott, C, 16:35; 6, Ryland Karlovich, A, 16:43; 7, Curtis Yungen, C, 16:47; 8, Wilder Schaaf, A, 16:48; 9, Jerrod Puckett, C, 16:58; 10, Ryan Santana, C, 17:00; 11, Cord Walsh, A, 17:25; 12, Kirby Garlitz, M, 17:37; 13, Derek Tarnawa, A, 17:38; 14, Charles Warrington, KU, 17:46; 15, Austin Goebel, KU, 17:50.
16, James Croft, C, 17:54; 17, Andrew Daw, M, 17:55; 18, Steven Reed, KU, 17:57; 19, Nick Anderson, KU, 18:12; 20, Noah Kass, A, 18:14; 21, Colin Haug, A, 18:33; 22, Peter Bilden, EP, 18:37; 23, Culley Dumbeck, KU, 19:02; 24, Blake Platt, EP, 19:39; 25, Cody Warren, EP, 19:44; 26, Ben Morton, KU, 19:45; 27, Joey Logan, EP, 19:54; 28, Jess Huntley, EP, 19:55; 29, Von Sergi, M, 19:58; 30, Hayden Leach, M, 20:09; 31, Mel Cunningham, M, 20:14; 32, Daniel Grupe, M, 20:24; 33, Brandon Young, M, 21:04.
TEAM SCORES — Crater 15, Ashland 51, Klamath Union 75, Mazama 105, Eagle Point incomplete.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS — 1, Riley Swanson, C, 19:23; 2, Kayleigh Tyerman, C, 19:28; 3, Arianne Lafierre, C, 19:41; 4, Silver Seibert, C, 19:43; 5, Laurie Stoutenburgh, C, 19:47; 6, Chelsa McDonnell, KU, 20:07; 7, Aria Hemphill, A, 20:22; 8, Anya Martinez, C, 20:23; 9, Camelia Mayfield, A, 20:27; 10, Erika Hultz, A, 20:32; 11, Emily Olson, C, 20:40; 12, Mya Kass, A, 20:43; 13, Haley Beal, A, 20:56; 14, Sara Nelson, M, 21:24; 15, Jaylin Bliss, KU, 21:50.
16, Cheyenne Walker, KU, 22:00; 17, Seena Frantz, A, 22:02; 18, Erin Westfall, KU, 22:29; 19, Hannah Ewing, A, 22:46; 20, Megan Cummings, KU, 22:51; 21, Gabriela Franco-Arizola, M, 23:26; 22, Jessica Ferro, EP, 24:10; 23, Shaymaa Taha, M, 24:50; 24, Brandee McGonagill, M, 25:35; 25, Jenny Calvert-Warren, KU, 26:04; 26, Kala Malone, EP, 27:08; 27, Christine Hanson-Reed, M, 27:25; 28, Ellie Pohl, KU, 28:04; 29, Britney Byington, M, 28:37.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail email@example.com