By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– The best boys team ever in the history of the Stayton High School Cross Country team returns in nearly full-force in 2017.
The team that included Casey Pugh, Matt Frazeur, Troy Saari, Brody Johnson, Ben Kirby, Dylan Cudd and Isaac Nieto posted a 150 score at the State Tournament in 2016, three-points shy of fourth-place North Bend that followed the team’s Oregon West Conference-title performance a few days prior to the State Race at Lane Community College.
Now, fast forward nearly a year after that big season ended, all but Saari returns to the team (Saari and his family moved to Montana), and the team that features probably two of the most dangerous runners in the State on the team in Pugh and Frazuer
“I think as a full team, we’re really excited and if we all work together and have a good team bond, that we can do anything we put our minds to,” said Pugh, who finished tenth in the state in Cross Country as a junior, the highest finisher for the Eagles in 2016 “So we’re really excited to go to State and see what we can do there.”
Knowing that they were just striking distance away from that fourth-place position left a bitter taste in the mouth of the squad and they kept that close to them as they prepare for the night race in Wilsonville this Friday night.
“It kind of left a bitter taste in our mouth, just knowing that we were that far away from getting to that fourth-place medal,” said Pugh. “So all of us are coming back with a vengeance in a way, that we want to do better and get fourth or even better.
“It’s never been done before in school history, so we were all very excited,” Pugh added about bringing home the fifth-place trophy to Stayton. “So as a team, we’re very excited, really pumped for the next year especially.”
And though Pugh wants to bring home more team trophies higher than the one they brought home last November, he too want to try to break the school record of 15:39, a time in which he is 50 seconds off of right now as he as one last year to leave a mark on the program in more ways than not.
On the girls side, they return Jesse Mitchell, who finished 35th in the State race with a time of 21:30 as a freshman; and the sophomore described the experience as a learning experience for this season as she leads a very young girls cross country team in 2017.
“Just get stronger, I wasn’t very strong last year. So harder workouts I guess,” said Mitchell on how she could improve entering her sophomore campiagn. “It was definitely hard, but it’ll make me work harder and will make my team work harder too.”
Head Coach Eric Holm pointed out too that sophomore Bridgett Spencer, throughout middle school with Mitchell was toe-and-toe with her. Freshman Haley Notman was a Top 30 runner as a eighth-grader last season and could be one of the fastest runners for the squad once she gets accostum to the 5K speed as well as freshman Skyla Anderson, and then sophomore Sydney Kadin, who Holm expects to improve entering her sophomore season.
With the young nucleus, Holm compares the girls side with how the guys team was a few years ago when this current wave was just starting off.
“That’s the exciting part, to me I look at…that’s how the boys were just a couple of years ago, they were all just freshman, sophomores,” said Holm. “I’m just hoping that we’re seeing the same thing with the girls, because the girls are excited about it this year and I think mainly if our freshman make that transition to a 5K ok, I think the girls will do really well.
“We also got quite a few of the new girls I haven’t seen running enough and hopefully they get in there.”
Few Photos by Jeremy McDonald