The East Linn Christian Academy boys placed fourth in the 2A/1A team standings on Saturday, Nov. 3 at the OSAA State Cross Country Championships at Lane Community College.
Senior Jedaiah Wasson led the way for the Eagles, placing second in a time of 16:15. Tim Stevens of Union/Cove won the race in 15:33.
The key move for ELCA might have been made by sophomore Brandon Williams, who finished strong and placed 13th overall.
“He was in 23rd with a mile to go,” said ELCA coach Kellen Peters. “He passed a lot of guys the last mile. Mentally, it’s a lot easier to go when you’re passing guys the last mile than if you’re getting passed and trying to hold on. He ran the race plan perfectly.”
Williams said the experience of running at state last year as a freshman helped him be more confident on the course.
“I was trying to get top-10 but I couldn’t kick it in enough at the end,” Williams said. “Knowing how close I was to top-10 will make me push harder next year.”
Senior LR Burns finished in 29th overall in 18:04 with sophomore teammate Ethan Slayden right behind him in 18:07.
Freshman Caleb Rickman rounded out the scoring for the Eagles, placing 60th in 19:01.
While the Eagles will lose Wasson, one of the top runners in the state over the past few seasons, they return a promising core of freshmen and sophomores.
“They’re young. Learning how to race a 5K, for most of them, freshman and sophomores, has been the big key,” Peters said. “They’ve learned, they’ve trusted the system, put in the training and it’s going to pay off in the end. Today, they stuck to the plan and ran well.”
Wasson placed fourth at state as a junior, 11th as a sophomore and 26th as a freshman. He had hopes of winning a title as a senior, but Stevens put up the second-best time of the day, regardless of classification.
Wasson said the early pace was faster than he preferred, but he had no choice but to match it and not let Stevens get away.
“It ended up being smoking fast again like it was last year. I was hoping to go sub-16, but I’m happy with the place I got and that’s really what matters,” Wasson said. “I wanted to win but Tim Stevens just ran a hell of a race. He ran really, really well.”
Wasson said one of his primary goals all season has been to qualify for the annual Border Clash meet which pits Oregon's top runners against a squad from Washington. He safely qualified for that event, which will be held Saturday, Nov. 17 on the campus of the Nike World Headquarters in Beaverton.
The Lebanon girls placed 11th in the team standings in the 5A girls competition.
Senior Isabella Ayala was the top placer for the Lebanon girls, finishing 18th in 19:48.
Being in the top 20 was a reward after a difficult season. Ayala had struggled with hip issues her entire running career and tore her labrum during the 2017 cross country season. She had hip surgery in March and in early summer she was able to jog for just 10 minutes at a time.
“In August, when we started practice, that was the first time I ran a mile,” Ayala said.
Late in the season, Ayala finally started to feel stronger physically and that was reflected in her results.
“I don’t know that I’d ever run without pain before,” Ayala said. “I’m glad I got it fixed.”
Lebanon coach Brad Bauer said it was good to see Ayala begin to regain her form.
"I thought she looked pretty good. She competed well. She's still getting healthy," Bauer said.
Fellow senior Amy Workman placed 42nd with a time of 20:54. Senior Destinee Candello was 63rd in 21:58 7:04. Teammate Dina Altuhov, a junior, was close behind n 65th in a time of 22:01. Aria Mays, a sophomore, rounded out the scoring for the Warriors, placing 83rd in 24:12.
The Warriors qualified for state for the fourth consecutive season. Lebanon placed third in 2016 and fifth in 2015.
At the midpoint of this season, it was not clear Lebanon would extend the streak, but Bauer never lost faith in the squad.
"They were dynamite at the district meet," Bauer said. "We've really done, girls-wise, a good job of being competitive. Our girls, it started several years ago, that the girls just have a real competitive attitude and from one group to the next they have the belief that they are capable."