The sophomore places eighth at the Three Rivers League district championships and becomes the Cougars first OSAA representative on the boys side since 2007.
OREGON CITY Steven Cranston wasnt just running. He was counting.
Keeping track of his position relative to his competitors throughout the race, the sophomore put an end to the Canby boys cross-country teams drought at the OSAA finals.
He crossed the finish line in 16 minutes 45.05 seconds at the Three Rivers League championships Oct. 23 at Clackamas Community College, taking eighth place overall and clinching one of the districts four individual berths to the Class 6A meet.
The Cougars, however, wont advance as a group. They placed third with 72 points, finishing behind state qualifiers Portland-Grant (44) and West Linn (50).
That news made it difficult for Cranston to celebrate his achievement.
I knew I made it to state because I counted in the middle of the race, he said. But I wasnt sure about our team. When I found out about our team, I was a little devastated. Its hard to hold your head up high when you know your team isnt going with you.
Still, what Cranston accomplished was momentous for Canby. Last year, the program was not represented at the state meet by a boy, girl or team for the first time in coach Tom Millbrookes 29-year tenure.
Cranston became the squads first state qualifier since Krissy Peterson advanced on the girls side in 2011, and he also snapped a five-year streak of futility as the schools first state-qualifying runner on the boys side since Nick Petshow in 2007.
The OSAA finals are slated for Nov. 2 at Lane Community College in Eugene.
Cranston enters the meet on the heels of coming within 4 seconds of his personal record (16:41.15), which he clocked at an invitational in Oregon City.
That performance Sept. 21 was the first of five top-10 finishes in a row for Cranston, who has placed in the top 20 in all seven of his races this season.
Cranston has made remarkable progress since last years district meet, where he was the Cougars No. 7 finisher and the 43rd overall placer with a time of 18:42.26.
Motivated by his mother, Sally, who has cerebral palsy, and his older brother, John, who is in the Marine Corps, Cranston trained extensively during the offseason and participated regularly in Millbrookes summer running program.
Cranstons teammates chanted his name as he was honored after the district race for his top-10 finish and state-qualifying performance.
My goal was just to earn the respect of some of my coaches and just go out and race my hardest, Cranston said.
West Linn sophomores Roman Ollar (16:15.23) and Grayson Ollar (16:29.27) swept the top two spots in the boys race. Oregon City senior Al Lacey and Lakeridge sophomores Leo Lukens and Noah Belcik will join Cranston as the districts other individual state qualifiers. Only two of the top 10 finishers at the district meet are seniors.
In a powerful conference, Canbys boys placed third despite career days from two of its top five runners. Cougars junior Ethan Patterson clocked a personal-record 17:05.54, taking 11th place. He was the schools third finisher and 21st overall last year.
Senior teammate Dean Nizer, who did not compete at the district finals last year, crossed the finish line in a personal-best 17:14.20 to take 16th place as Canbys third scorer.
We had a strategy as a team to go up with the top guys and run as a group, Cranston said. We didnt accomplish what we wanted to, but we really did a lot of amazing things at the end of the season. Representing (my teammates) is a great honor for me.
The squads other two scorers also earned top-20 placements in a race that featured 48 athletes. Sophomore Quinton Wiltshire ran a 17:20.75 to take 18th place, and senior Brendan Seehaver (17:21.56) finished the race less than a second later to take 19th.
Cougars senior Morgan Webber took 21st in 17:30.78, but his time did not count towards the team score. Junior Blaine Matthews rounded out the lineup with an 18:28.89, placing 36th.
Cranston said he and his teammates trained on the district course on a few Saturday mornings during the season. The site-specific was particularly helpful in preparing for the long incline on the back side of the course, he said.
We had some strategies going in to push up that straightaway hill, Cranston said. That helped me a lot, just knowing, Ive practiced this before, and Ive done it, so I can execute it again.
Im excited (for the state meet), but its a bittersweet moment. I definitely wish some of the other guys could go.
On the girls side, Canby tallied 149 points to take sixth place in the team standings. Grant (29) cruised to a district title with three of the top five finishers, including sophomore champion Ella Donaghu (18:36.31) and senior runner-up Piper Donaghu (19:01.08).
The Cougars were led by junior Hannah Stobie, who took 22nd place with a 22:56.22. Stobie was third for Canby and 35th overall last year. Following closely was sophomore Ginny Link, who ran a 21:58.27 for 24th.
Senior teammate Sarah Dietrich crossed the finish line in 22:40.11, placing 32nd, while freshman Karley Pierson took 35th with a personal-best time of 23:00.22. Shailynn Hestand (36th, 23:03.54) was Canbys fifth scorer, and Caytlyn Singleton (41st, 23:27.56) rounded out the lineup.
AT A GLANCE
Three Rivers League district championships
Oct. 23 at Clackamas Community College (Oregon City)
BOYS (team scores): 1. Grant, 44; 2. West Linn, 50; 3. Canby, 72; 4. Lakeridge, 90; 5. Oregon City, 133; 6. Lake Oswego, 136; 7. Clackamas, 197.
Canby (top five): 8. Steven Cranston, 16:45.05; 11. Ethan Patterson, 17:05.54; 16. Dean Nizer, 17:14.20; 18. Quinton Wiltshire, 17:20.75; 19. Brendan Seehaver, 17:21.56.
GIRLS (team scores): 1. Grant, 29; 2. Clackamas, 61; 3. Lakeridge, 79; 4. Lake Oswego, 112; 5. West Linn, 124; 6. Canby, 149; 7. Oregon City, 154.
Canby (top five): 22. Hannah Stobie, 22:56.22; 24. Ginny Link, 21:58.27; 32. Sarah Dietrich, 22:40.11; 35. Karley Pierson, 23:00.22; 36. Shailynn Hestand, 23:03.54.