Faster times rule for Madras at district
Much faster times didn't translate to a trip to state for Madras runners in their team's first 5A Intermountain Conference district cross country meet.
Not when everyone else was also running faster on the 5,000-meter Sorosis Park course at The Dalles on Saturday. Just the top two teams and first four runners not on those teams advanced to state.
Nearly all of the White Buffalo runners clocked dramatic improvements from a Sept. 21 meet at Sorosis Park. The boys' team lowered their times by an average of 28 seconds and the girls' by 40 seconds on the winding, narrow course run mostly between tall fir trees.
"We were hoping to peak at the district and we did," Madras coach Lonnie Henderson said. "All of our younger runners now have the experience of running at district."
Madras junior Freddy Hernandez was hoping to extend his season another week, but was two places behind the fourth and final individual berth. He clocked 17:57, five seconds behind Josh O'Hollaren of Summit. Fellow individual pursuer Tucker Mottl of Crook County was one second ahead of Hernandez.
"Since we ran the course before, I knew it'd be hard to pass people," Hernandez said. "I was able to pass some people on the hill (roughly 2,000 meters into each lap)."
Hernandez said he was hampered by being hit on the back of his leg during the first and second mile.
"I almost fell twice," Hernandez said. "I had to slow down and then pick up my pace."
Madras started out in the middle, lane five, setting up a fast opening quarter mile before entering the trail around Sorosis Park with a 90-degree turn.
"That corner was tough," the Madras coach said. "I was hoping both of our teams would get out a little faster at the start and not get boxed in when the course really narrows."
Hernandez was among the top 15 at the corner. It was part of the junior running a 5:26 first mile and going 11:22 in this second mile.
"To get to the front I had to start fast," Hernandez said. "Then the runners from the outside were coming inside as the course narrowed. I felt that fast start on the third mile."
Still, Hernandez ran 24 seconds faster than in the September meet. The winner, Jordan Ringe of Hermiston, ran 27 seconds faster at district in 16:48.
Madras freshmen Amber Lafayette and Brittany Devore were also pursuing state trips while running in their first district meets. Each had several top 10 finishes in earlier races but were anxious before Saturday's start.
"I was nervous and excited before the race, but it's district," Lafayette said.
Devore said she "was afraid she would use up her energy early in the race."
Each opted to run with the early leaders in the opening quarter mile.
Lafayette ran her first mile in 6:23 while trying to keep up with the leaders. Devore was 17 seconds back, running with fellow freshman Karlen Yallup who clocked 6:39 for the first mile.
Eventually, Lafayette and Devore ran much of the race alone.
"I was too far behind one runner and ahead of another," Lafayette said.
Lafayette finished 14th in 21:00, dropping 1:16 from the earlier race at The Dalles. For comparison, winner Jennifer Macias of Hermiston (the 2005 4A state runner-up), was 42 seconds faster at district than five weeks earlier.
Lafayette was also five places behind the final state qualifier, Kelly Hanson of Mountain View who clocked 20:37.
Devore passed several runners in the final mile as "I knew I had some energy and I knew I had to use it." She was 21st in 21:44, dropping 34 seconds from the September race.
Karlen Yallup had the team's biggest improvement. She lowered her Sorosis Park time by 2:29 in clocking 22:11 to finish 27th.
"Karlen's first mile was the difference," Henderson said. "Earlier this season, Karlen would try to move up during the race. We worked on a quicker start for her. She went from a 7:11 first mile to 6:39."
Older sister Yolanda Yallup, hampered by a knee injury, was three seconds faster in 25:01. Teammate Hali Adams, running her first 5,000-meter race, was 43rd in 23:31.
The boys had solid drops as well. Lex Anguiano continued his late-season improvement by finishing 23rd. The junior was 48 seconds faster, running 18:13.
"Lex was coming on strong all season; he showed it at district," Henderson said.
Brandon Thompson owned the most dramatic improvement of 57 seconds, clocking 18:20 to finish 29th. That was a key part of Madras edging Mountain View for fifth place (133-135). As the Buff's fourth runner, Thompson was nine places ahead of Mountain View's No. 4 runner.
Thompson was also part of a pack finishing four seconds and four places behind Andrew Flu, hampered by a hip injury. Flu lowered 10 seconds off his earlier time.
Atcitty Begay finished 41st in 19:25 with Jonathan Hutchins 47th and senior Jordan Towery finished 49th.
The Madras boys' finished four points behind Crook County to earn fourth place. The Buffs finished well ahead of The Dalles and Pendleton.
Madras' girls were sixth with 154 points. Senior Amanda Butler finished her career by taking 51st with freshman teammate Michelle LaPage 53rd. The Buffs finished ahead of Crook County and Pendleton.
"Before this season, we were predicted to be last at district," Henderson said. "These runners could have hung their heads low but they kept working hard all season and never gave up."
Hermiston's boys earned a return trip to state, taking the district title with 35 points. The Bulldogs were fifth in last season's 4A meet (the last season before the expansion to six classes). Bend earned second with 51 points, improving from sixth in last season's IMC meet.
In the girls' meet, Summit won the district title with 41 points despite losing top runner Alyssa O'Connor to a leg injury two weeks ago. Hermiston scored 58 points to take second.