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CCHS teams make state meet a habit

Girls team has reached state meet for the last three seasons, while boys team has gone twice in a row

by: LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Grayson Munn leads a string of runners to the finish line at the OSAA Class 4A State Cross County Championships. Munn was the top finishing Crook  County runner taking 15th place in the event.

For more than a decade, the Crook County High School cross country program was unable to send a team to the state cross country championships.
   The team frequently sent individuals to state, including several top-10 finishers. However, the Intermountain Conference was so strong that qualifying an entire team seemed out of the question.
   Then, Crook County dropped to Class 4A and everything changed.
   “Our girls team has gone to state three years in a row now,” said head cross country coach Tracy Smith. “And this was the second consecutive year for the boys. I have noticed that since we came into the Greater Oregon League, teams are starting to train harder and our league is definitely getting better.”
   Although neither team placed high at the state championships, the Cowgirls were able to run away with the district championship while the Cowboys were just three points out of first.
   In addition, Smith was pleased that several young runners on both teams stepped up this year.
   Grayson Munn, a junior, was the highest-finishing Crook County runner at state, taking 15th place in the boys race. Although Munn was the only Crook County runner to place in the top 30 at the state meet, Smith has plenty of reason to be optimistic about the future.
   Carly Hibbs and Natalie Stenbeck, who finished 39th and 40th respectively at the state meet, are the only Crook County runners to graduate. Even though the pair will be missed, Smith is excited about the team’s future.
   “A lot of young kids made it to state,” Smith said. “We have a lot of freshmen that are stepping up and contributing. Our kids are solid teams and they should be even stronger next year.”
   Not only will a solid nucleus of runners return to the team next year, most of the squad will be intact for at least two years. The Cowboys saw a freshmen and five sophomores compete on the varsity team, while four freshman made the Cowgirl varsity team.
   On the boys side, Smith is expecting big things from both Munn and Luis Rivera next year. He is also expecting to see improvement from Nathan Carmack, Blake George, Cody Thurman, and Liam Pickhardt, who all competed at state this year. In addition, Justin Glass and Paul Miller should compete for varsity spots.
   On the girls side, Charsie Brewer will be the veteran on the squad while freshmen Irene Morales, Ashton Morgan, Katie Lee, and Tobi Hanes all competed at state. In addition, Smith is hopeful that another solid group of runners will be joining the team from this year’s eighth-grade squad.
   However, Smith makes it clear that the team can no longer take it for granted that they are going to get to go to state each year.
   “With Ridgeview added to the league and everyone else training harder, we are going to have to compete to stay at the top,” he said. “Our league will be tougher, but we had a lot of kids that were inexperienced with high school training this year and I think next year they will be able to step up and train better. The kids had great attitudes this year and they got along great with each other. I’m feeling good about the future.”