TALENT — Tanner Sayers and Emma Schmerbach have plenty in common.
Both run cross country for South Medford.
Both had race strategies in the Rogue Invitational on Saturday that revolved around placing well, rather than meeting specific times.
And both were quite successful, snatching the top boys and girls places by wide margins in their respective 5,000-meter races at Hagler-James Park.
One thing they don’t share is notoriety. Schmerbach announced her presence as a freshman in this race last year and since has won regularly and made headlines. The senior Sayers is a newbie to these parts, having transferred to South Medford this year from Sweet Home.
Taking stock of how his boys and girls teams fared, South Medford coach Josh Wallace admitted, “It was a nice day.”
Sayers won the boys race in 15 minutes, 42.34 seconds, more than 20 seconds ahead of runner-up Jacob Allmaras of North Medford, whose time was 16:03.65.
The Panther boys had three others in the top 10 and scored 40 points to win handily in the 14-team field. North Medford was second with 80.
Schmerbach, who in 2017 made this her first high school race, breezed to victory in 19:23.28. Ashland’s Hazel Richards was second in 19:41.53, and South Medford’s Gabi Wisnovsky placed third in 19:46.66.
Crater was led by fifth-place Mariah Kinney and captured the girls title over 10 other teams with 50 points. South Medford scored 66.
Sayers has raced three times in a Panther uniform, and all three have been solid performances, said Wallace, owing to a dedicated summer regimen.
The transplant from the Willamette Valley has taken to Southern Oregon.
“I like running down here a lot better,” he said. “There’s more competition. I have pretty good training partners now and I just really like it.”
It shows in the results. Sayers ran 15:34 in his first meet this season. That shattered his previous best of 16:19.
“I was doing pretty good mileage, a lot of tempos and stuff like that,” said Sayers of his summer program. “I didn’t think I’d be in this good of shape this early in the season, but I’ll take it.”
He played to his strengths, grinding out an early pace that beat down the competition. He took a slight lead after one mile and expanded it appreciably by the second.
“He knows that if he’s going to place well, he needs to build a little cushion before the end of the race,” said Wallace. “His strength is really hammering it the whole race, setting a solid pace instead of having a sitting-and-kicking mentality.”
Sayers was fifth in the Class 4A state meet last year for Sweet Home.
His arrival bolstered what was a strong South Medford team. The Panthers have six runners who have eclipsed 17 minutes, and Wallace doesn’t recall that happening in his 14 seasons.
On Saturday, Truett Bostwick (16:25.17) was fifth, Reed Hungerford (16:41.62) was sixth and Ethan Foster (16:44.22) was eighth.
Schmerbach made this meet her first prep victory, then added four more wins as a freshman, including one in the Southwest Conference championships. She was seventh at state.
Her sophomore season got off to a slow start when she missed the season opener.
“I definitely think I could have come in a little stronger to my season,” she said. “I missed the first race, so I’m a race behind, and I know the races during the season really help me get in the groove of cross country. They help me get my timing and pace.”
Her time Saturday was a couple seconds slower than what she ran at last year’s inaugural event.
A fast first mile compromised her ability to finish. It took some of the starch out of her, but she wasn’t threatened.
“She’s a talented runner,” said Wallace. “She has strengths on both the endurance and the speed sides. Today, she didn’t have to use the speed side.”
The coached lauded Wisnovsky for running a smart race in the beginning, then coming on strong and picking off opponents as she closed in on the finish.
“They (Schmerbach and Wisnovsky) set a great tone for the rest of our girls,” said Wallace.
Crater’s Kinney had a time of 20:03.44, and teammates Elezebeth Allen, Gracen Hokanson and Presley Robison occupied the Nos. 8-10 places.
TEAM SCORES: South Medford 40, North Medford 80, Grants Pass 90, Crater 99, Ashland 153, Yreka 160, North Valley 225, Mt. Shasta 241, Hidden Valley 255, Phoenix 270, Cascade Christian 271, Henley 272, Mazama 311, South Umpqua 331. Bandon, Mt. Shasta, incomplete.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 25): 1, Tanner Sayers, SM, 15:42.34; 2, Jacob Allmaras, NM, 16:03.65; 3, Daniel Beckstead, GP, 16:06.55; 4, Reed Pryor, Ash, 16:16.03; 5, Truett Bostwick, SM, 16:25.17; 6, Reed Hungerford, SM, 16:41.62; 7, Gage Reed, Cra, 16:43.84; 8, Ethan Foster, SM, 16:44.22; 9, Alexis Ramirez, MS, 16:53.66; 10, Trey Driskell, NM, 16:54.34.
11, Noah Marshall, Pho, 16:57.05; 12, Dimitri Underwood, GP, 17:01.05; 13, Brodie Dick, NM, 17:05.61; 14, Patrick Clayburn, NV, 17:08.52; 15, JC Herring, Cra, 17:17.72; 16, Asa Marwick, HV, 17:20.97; 17, Thomas MacLean, Sha, 17:21.25; 18, Elijah Higelin, Yre, 17:27.44; 19, Matthew Schenk, Cra, 17:28.05; 20, Isaac Cutler, Ban, 17:28.3; 21, Cedar Davis-Frankfort, GP, 17:31.94; 22, Michael Maiorano, SM, 17:37.22; 23, Drew Hering, MS, 17:37.47; 24, Johan Jordaan, SM, 17:38.58; 25, Jade Wilder, Yre, 17:42.66.
TEAM SCORES: Crater 50, South Medford 66, Shasta 107, Grants Pass 110, Ashland 154, North Medford 167, Phoenix 177, St. Mary’s 199, South Umpqua 205, Yreka 211, Henley 220. South Kitsap, Modoc, Bandon, Hidden Valley, Weed, North Valley incomplete.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 25): 1, Emma Schmerbach, SM, 19:23.28; 2, Hazel Richards, Ash, 19:41.53; 3, Gabi Wisnovsky, SM, 19:46.66; 4, Evelyn Collins-Winn, SK, 20:00.97; 5, Mariah Kinney, Cra, 20:03.44; 6, Kira Morrow, Hen, 20:14.78; 7, Marissa Bonivert, MS, 20:24.78; 8, Elezebeth Allen, Cra, 20:36.3; 9, Gracen Hokanson, Cra, 20:41.61; 10, Presley Robison, Cra, 20:41.97.
11, Emma Robles, Sha, 20:57.28; 12, Sophia Stubblefield, Pho, 21:01.5; 13, Lindie Larson, Sha, 21:06.72; 14, Aneykah McCall, SU, 21:07.66; 15, Lupita Alegria, Pho, 21:10.22; 16, Mary Sturley, GP, 21:14.97; 17, Nicole Yasumi, Mod, 21:24.69; 18, Isabelle Tate-Arevalo, Sha, 21:25.97; 19, Milan Hague, Ash, 21:35.8; 20, Abby Burton, SM, 21:43.53; 21, Emily Bath, GP, 21:47.08; 22, Sarah Sturley, GP, 21:49.05; 23, Samantha Dara, GP, 21:51.05; 24, Holly Hutton, Ban, 21:51.97; 25, Shannon Smith, Ban, 21:56.18 Bandon
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