By Jeremy McDonald
STAYTON, Ore.– Ben Kirby has put in a lot of work over the last four years and since his Senior year started the Stayton Senior has came into his own as a leader of the Eagles Cross Country team coming on the heels of the seniors before him in Casey Pugh and Matt Frazeur the past two years.
“I just really try to set an example for everyone that if you work hard, you get where you want to be,” said Kirby.
The Senior runner opened the season by breaking the school record in the 3,000 meters at Wilsonville’s Night Race by roughly four seconds with his 9:20.9 time in the race. He followed that up with a win at Ultimook and recorded Top 10 finishes at the Northwest Classic, Three Course Challenge, Nike Portland XC before pulling away from the field in his second win of the season at the Regis/Stayton Invitational Thursday.
His win on the home course, an 18 second win over second-place finisher Brandon Williams of East Linn Christian, didn’t come without any challenges however.
After the initial lap around the Stayton Middle School grass field, where Kirby paced himself around fifth-to-seventh, the Eagles runner separated himself heading into the first hill about three-quarters into the trees on the farthest side of the campus as he tried to keep himself focused coming out of the trees and to the finish line.
“Just picturing all the hard work that I’ve done and just really focusing on just keep pushing. You can’t lose focus,” said Kirby, who finished second at the event in 2018. “It’s really good to get one at this one last time.”
Stayton boys won the Division as well as Zach Holloway finished tenth, Brenden Del Grande was 13 and Jacob Frazeur was 16th in the race.
The Lady Eagles Girls Cross Country team won their division as well with a team score of 27 as Hailey Notman and Hope Bridge finished one-two in the finishing order with Sarah Wolf and Bridget Spencer finishing seventh and ninth respectively.
“I feel like we have someone pushing us more and so it’s like more competition, which helps us in practice and it helps us in races. It’s really great because it’s helping our team,” said Notman.
Similar to the guys in recent years of having that deep team, that one-two punch, the Stayton Girls have that this season once more. After barely missing the State Meet as a team last season by two points after going two years ago, the strong core of with Notman, Spencer, and Jessica Mitchell to mix in with the freshman like a Bridge and a Wolf has set up Stayton for this season and into next season.
Mitchell finished 12th with Skyla Andersen 11th in Thursday’s race as the Eagles took what they learned in their prior race at the Nike Portland XC race and incorporated that into their home race and moving ahead to the Estacade Invite
“We learned that we ran a little too fast in the first mile instead of the second mile of it, so we decided to slow down the first mile of it so we have more energy for later in the race,” said Bridge