MHC CROSS COUNTRY - St. Mary's floods the front of the field with Paige Rice leading the charge
by: David Ball St. Mary's sophomore Paige Rice spent pretty much the entire race out alone in first place, as repeat district champion in the Mount Hood Conference.

The St. Mary's cross country team dominated the trails once again, repeating at Mount Hood Conference champions by putting its entire counting five among the top dozen racers at Wednesday's district meet held at Centennial High School.

The Blues finished with 33 points, half the total of its closest challenger Gresham. Sophomore Paige Rice picked up her second district crown, completing the 5K course in 17:54 to win by nearly a full minute. She sprinted out to a comfortable 30-meter lead on the race's first loop and was never challenged.

'She's put in some great workouts, but she's just not getting enough sleep and that catches up to you,' St. Mary's coach Mike Bojorquez said. 'You can tell when a kid shows up all hunched over and droopy. But today she came in excited and ready to go.'

The Blues coaching staff keeps an eye on the late nights by scanning Facebook and messaging runners to hit the sack if they see posts into the wee hours, Bojorquez said.

St. Mary's dominated the MHC throughout the regular season and it was no different Wednesday with the Blues #5 runner Mickayla Phillis coming in ahead of the #2 runners from five teams.

'We don't take this meet lightly,' Bojorquez said. 'Several years ago, we put in a good season, but ended up third and missed out on state. We always tell them to be ready and take this meet seriously.'

The Blues had other concerns this year, as the injury bug has hit the lineup leaving Bojorquez to make one starting-time scratch to his racing order. In addition, Bella Gazzola (5th, 19:44) was making her return from three weeks off and Carly Januzzi (8th, 19:51) was racing with a sore ankle.

'There were three other teams fighting for state today,' Bojorquez said. 'We didn't face much interference earlier in the season, but today everyone was battling and that's going to help us get ready for state.'

Gresham earned the last state berth with a 67 team score, beating out rival Barlow by 16 points. Kennedy Martin (2nd, 18:49) paced the Gophers, who had three runners finish in the top 10.

'We didn't want to get caught on the back,' Gresham coach Kylee Hutchins said. 'We wanted our girls up in the front where they could get out and race, and they gave everything they had today.'

Mandie Maddux (3rd, 19:12) of Barlow; Emily Trosino (4th, 19:22) of Reynolds, along with Central Catholic teammates Maggie Riley (6th, 19:48) and Julia Stevenson (11th, 20:18) earned individual state spots.

• Central Catholic repeated as champions on the boys side, finishing with 29 points with its entire counting five finishing in the top 10. Sophomore Kyle Thompson led start to finish, hitting the line in 15:26.

Barlow gained the second team berth to state, finishing with 52 points led by the duo of Jacob Campbell and Jackson Haselnus, who crossed in second and third.

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