By Jeremy McDonald
FOREST GROVE, Ore.– As the rain was tapering off around Forest Grove and Neil Armstrong Middle School, the Varsity Girls Race was just getting underway with the sun and blue skies rolling in behind the storm cloud up overhead.
By the Mile one marker and entering the second mile, with the rain at a stop none, North Salem’s Abi Swain who was the Lady Vikings number one runner with Madison Willhoft out of the race Wednesday, had a few steps on the two Lady Vikings runners behind her as they went out for the second lap around the sporting complex to start the race.
“Honestly, just got to push through that second mile because as soon as I got through that second mile, I knew that the third mile…I don’t know that was me going for it,” said Swain on entering the second mile with the pressure behind her with a smile on her face.”It’s really amazing, all the great people we have in this league because I know going into a race, there’s going to be someone there that’s going to push me harder and harder.
“And honestly, those two girls are really sweet while they’re racing. They”re really encouraging and it was really great.”
Behind the lead pack, a few seconds behind was a new face of McNary Cross Country in Ella Repp sitting in fourth place and was the Lady Celtics number one runner with Kailey Doutt out for the race as well.
A freshman, the quick Repp has been learning from the senior Doutt during this early season and was living up to the standard that Doutt has put in front of her.
“Having Kaliey as a teammate has helped a lot because it gives me somebody to race against and try beat her hopefully” said Repp of Doutt. “I don’t know when that’ll be but I try to catch up with her and beat her and be at her pace but she’s pretty fast.”
Repp, who’s adjusting pretty well to the 5K demands of the High School level is no easy task, but facing fast girls like Sprague last week and now the Forest Grove Vikings, has given the freshman opportunities to grow as a runner.
“This is the first time I’ve raced against them,” said Repp. “So they’re pretty fast girls, they were very ahead by a minute or two from me. I think it’ll help me a lot because it’s higher competition, it’s getting me to race and set my bar higher and get up there with them.
“I wish I ran faster, I didn’t feel like I ran my fastest but I didn’t feel pretty good today, but I finished it.”
In front of her, the two Forest Grove girls overcame Swain’s strong performance to start the race to go 1-2 in the race and Swain finished a strong third in the race as she looks to continue to build from this base she’s built moving forward
“Basically doing what all my coaches tells me because he’s done this a lot,” said Swain, who had the second-fastest time by a sophomore in North Salem history at 19:33. “Just working hard at the workouts and making sure I push in every single in every one of those meets.”
For the Lady Viks of North, it shows the type of talent they have as they return their whole team for 2016 that finished fourth in conference and added a new face to the Varsity roster in Elia Sanchez.
But, with all that talent, their goal is to finish higher than fourth in 2017, and Willhoft thinks they are capable of doing that in 2017.
“We’re trying not to finish fourth this year, we’re trying to finish third at least,” said Willhoft with a laugh. “I think we will bounce back and do it, especially since we have some girls who are really fast coming out. I think we’re totally capable now since we’re building a big base and we’re really going to bring it the next few weeks after the Seaside Meet.”
BOYS CROSS COUNTRY- As the three-team dual meet wraps up with North Salem, McNary and Forest Grove, the rain-soaked, race-worn course worn on the racers of the guys race.
The main worn-spot was when the racers leave the rubber track onto the grassy, slick course ahead for much of the three, one mile-laps around them.
“Oh it was really slick, espically right there and in the very back corner, there were little patches of mud really, so going through that was pretty tough, so I tried to avoid that the best I could so I wouldn’t wound up getting stick in it, get my shoes wet,” said Allen on the course. “It wasn’t insane, but it wasn’t fun either.”
Allen, a former Celtic football player-turned football, is making the transition from popping the pads to slipping on some comfortable running kicks this year.
“It was definitely a big change, I’m so used to being in this time peroid of school just being able to go to football practice afterwards,” said Allen about his first-year of running. “So it was a big change going from football practice to coming out and running everyday, but it wasn’t too bad, it’s going great so far.”
Allen hung around the lead pack towards the final 300 meters of the first mile before falling back towards the tenth-position for the final two-plus miles of the race.
“I heard really good things about their program coming into this so I just wanted to stay within the middle of the group. But somehow stayed up with the Top I guess so that’s pretty cool for me.” “It was pretty cool, I didn’t think I could hang up that far but I did, it was perfect weather to do it.”
In the front of the pack, the lone non-Viking in the Top 5, North Salem’s David Rojas who finished in third-place in the race after hanging up with the lead pack for most of the race before Rojas saw the lead runners in front of him pull away during the final mile or so.
Rojas knew how tough they were entering the race, but remember his goal to keep up with them and was his same goal last year with keeping up with the senior-heavy powerhouse West Salem Boys team.
“It was pretty tough, they’re pretty good at running. But my goal is keep up with them running and I did the best I could and I look forward for the next race,” starts Rojas. “It’s always good to race people who are faster than you then that way you could have a goal and you can actually chase a goal.
“So that’s what I like when I’m racing, chasing a goal so that’s what I like doing. That’s what I did with West and that’s what I’m doing this year.”