Crater is favored to win its third straight boys cross country state championship and eighth in 13 years, but coach Justin Loftus is taking nothing for granted.
“We’ve always pretty much looked at the season as a whole,” he says, “with new athletes running at the varsity level and new competition we’re running against and feel like we’re the underdogs. That’s how we treat going into the state meet.”
It doesn’t dope out that way as the championships for all classifications nears. The meet is Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.
Taking the best times of each team’s runners, athletic.net shows a comfortable win for Crater in 5A boys.
Loftus remembers thinking his team was in good shape against Summit in 2015 and wound losing out on another title by four points.
This time, the stiffest competition is expected to come from Ashland, which dopes out second.
The Grizzlies are led by individual favorite EJ Holland.
“We’ve only raced Ashland once when each of us had a full unit,” says Loftus, “and we beat them by 10 points. That’s not a ton. With state, we don’t have many teams that go, and any change up in placing can really change where teams finish.”
The win over Ashland came at the Midwestern League championships last week, when Crater placed six runners in the top 12 and scored 31 points, and Ashland had four in the top 14 and tallied 41.
“It can come down to the track, for sure, and who wants it more on the track,” says Loftus, referring to the final 300 yards of the 5,000-meter race.
Last year, Crater scored 32 points and Ashland was second with 83.
The Comets’ top returners are Jantz Tostenson, Ryland McCullough and Gage Reed.
Tostenson ranks fourth in 5A with a best time of 15:33.0. McCullough is 10th (15:56.2) and Reed 14th (16:07.2).
Ashland counters with Holland (14:53.2), Arlo Davis (third, 15:24.1) and Reed Pryor (16:00.4).
The Crater and Ashland girls teams are expected to contend for trophies, which go to the top four, as well.
The Comets pencil out third and Ashland sixth.
Crater’s Mariah Kinney has the fifth-best girls time at 18:53.2, Ashland’s Alexa Hague is 10th (19:00.0) and Crater’s Presley Robison 15th (19:17.5).
In 6A boys, Grants Pass’ Daniel Beckstead is fifth (15:24.7), South Medford’s Tanner Sayers eighth (15:34.9), North Medford’s Jacob Allmaras 10th (15:38.5) and South Medford’s Truett Bostwick 16th (15:42.6).
Emma Schmerbach, the Southwest Conference champion for South Medford, is ranked 22nd among 6A girls in 18:16.1.
Other local schools with full boys teams South Medford and Cascade Christian.
Girls teams to qualify included South Medford, Phoenix and St. Mary’s.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or email@example.com