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District Cross Country

Greer wins by a nose in boys race, three Pacers go to state
by: VERN UYETAKE, 
Lake Oswego’s Elijah Greer crosses the finish line half a second ahead of West Linn’s Cullen Wannarka during last week’s district cross country meet to win the district title.

There were a few gasps when fans surrounding the finish line at the Three Rivers League district cross country meet saw a yellow jersey round the corner and hit the track in first place.

While Lake Oswego's Elijah Greer was considered the favorite heading into the race, it was anything but a foregone conclusion that he would win.

However, his biggest challengers were thought to be Lakeridge's Alex Anderson or perhaps teammate John Paden.

Instead it was West Linn sophomore Cullen Wannarka sprinting onto the track at Clackamas Community College, 100 meters from victory.

Then Greer appeared in the midst of one of his patented kicks. But, for a moment, it appeared Wannarka's lead would be too big to overcome.

But Greer quickly started to bridge the gap and was right on Wannarka's tail with just over 10 meters to go. With only a few strides left in the race, Greer passed the West Linn runner on the inside, winning his first district cross country title by half a second.

'I was feeling really tired and I kind of gave up on myself a little bit. But once I got to the track my feet just started moving. I was just closing my eyes and running as hard as I can,' Greer said.

His time of 15:51.97 was just three seconds off of his personal best.

Not far behind was John Paden who also used good closing speed to finish an impressive third in 16:03.21, a new personal best.

Those finishes helped propel Lake Oswego to a strong second-place performance, just eight points behind West Linn as the Laker boys earned a trip to state.

On a warm afternoon, Anderson took an early lead looking to set a fast pace and make his opponents track him down.

'I was hoping to have a shot at a title. It was a gamble to go out that fast. It was disappointing that I couldn't hang on for longer,' Anderson said.

Anderson led for over half of the race before Greer started to gain on him. Greer moved into the lead midway through the race as that duo battled back and forth.

'The race was pretty young at that point. I think I took the lead a little too soon and near the end I was running out of steam,' Greer said.

Meanwhile, West Linn's Wannarka and Taylor West bided their time with Wannarka making a late move and overcoming Greer with less than 1000 meters to go.

He eventually led by 20 meters as he headed toward the track with Greer kicking hard and eventually catching him.

'You have to give Cullen credit. He didn't back down and had Elijah on the ropes until he got to the track and got that fire in his eyes,' Laker coach Eric Lider said.

Lake Oswego received strong performances from the rest of its team as well. Paul Hoard turned in a personal best and took sixth place overall.

'Paul is such a competitor. He was exhausted when he finished. He just goes after it every race,' Lider said.

Reed Oliver turned in a fantastic race, tallying a PR by an incredible 16 seconds to take 18th. And rounding out Lake Oswego's top five was Isaac Hayden who ran his second best time of the year and finished 21st.

For Lakeridge, the meet was highlighted by three individuals finishing in the top 12 and qualifying for state.

Despite being disappointed in his race, Anderson took fourth for Lakeridge, continuing what has been a stellar season for him.

'Alex's attitude was that it was all or nothing. He was trying to win a district championship,' Pacer coach Ken James said.

Seth Troisi turned in a PR by eight seconds, edging out an opponent from Clackamas to take seventh place.

It remained to be seen if Lakeridge could get another individual into the state race.

Kevin Pearson was near the front of the pack for much of the race and ended up nearly equaling his PR from his previous race at the Adidas Invitational.

His time of 17:06.68 was good enough for 12th, just two seconds ahead of Oregon City's top runner for the coveted final qualifying position.

'It's definitely nice to take a group of guys down and we had some great performances,' James said.

The state meet will be held at Lane Community College in Eugene and Greer, Paden and Anderson all expect to be major players in the race.

Greer could contend for a state title if he continues to drop time and race the way he has been over the past few weeks.

He already has state championships in track in the 800 and 1500 meters.

'I think I lost some momentum from earlier in the year. I'll try and run a bit of a smarter race (at state). I just want to have fun with it,' Greer said.