By Jeremy McDonald
SALEM, Ore.– While rival Sprague saw their Girls Team qualify for State, on the other side of the south said of Salem in the Saxons too sent a team to the State Race as a unit:
The Boys Cross Country Team.
Behind top finishers Jay Grant (fourth, 16:30.17), Evan Gonzalez (sixth, 16:38.47) and Eric Lungu (11th, 17:13.67), South Salem finshed second with 54, eight points behind GVC Boys District Team winners in McMinnville.
Grant, who’s been hovering the top three with race wins in dual meets on September 13 and September 20 and had a strong showing in the Saxon Invite (13th) and Portland XC Meet (39th), was happy with his breakout race as the junior’s been overcoming an injury this season as he PR”d Wednesday in Bush Park.
“I’m glad that I was finally able to have a breakout race, after being in the same place for all season. Also glad I was able to overcome an injury late in the season and be able to lead my team to state,” said Grant.
But since suffering a hip injury mid-season that forced him out of the North-South Civil War race, Grant is back healthy as the State Race draws closer.
Joining Grant is a freshman in Gonzalez. The Saxon newbie has slowly came into his own this season as he made the move from Judson Middle School and the 3K level to South Salem and the 5K level.
“As an individual I’m more than ecstatic about my overall performance. Not only was I able to run fast, but I was able to run smart and knew what to put into action,” said Gonzalez who has four Top 10 finishes including his sixth-place finish at Districts Wednesday and a 47th-place finish at the Portland XC Meet on September 30.
The first-year runner in Lungu that’s also on the basketball and track teams for the Saxons as his times is slowly approaching the low 17’s after seeing his times around 17:30 and 17:44 this season.
“It was my first year in Cross Country and I’m happy with how the season has gone so far. As a team I knew all along we were strong enough to make it to state and we all showed up at districts to run fast and to prove what we are capable of,” said Lungu.
With the Saxons boys squad returning to full strength in time for the big race Saturday afternoon at Lane Community College, it’s going to be awesome to see what this time is capable of doing come race day with the seven runners they are taking down south.
“As a team I’m in awe about how we have made it this far to qualify for state and to get two individuals into the top 10!,” said Gonzalez. “I’m glad I got to work hand and hand with the this team and I couldn’t be more proud of our results!”
On the girls side, the legend that is Anna Chau continues as the junior has brought home four wins this season, three at dual meets and the Saxon Invite, a third-place finish at another dual meet and was 19 seconds away from taking the District Title that the Lady Olympians Ginger Murnieks took Wednesday.
Chau finished fourth at State as a freshman before finishing 56th last season at the big race, but the junior this year is posting up freshman year-like numbers with times in three of her last four races in the 18:18 to 18:36 range.
The start of 6A Girls race is at 2:25pm with the 6A Boys race at 3pm.
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