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Cross-country trophies are tough to win

Seth Berdahl had one tough state cross-country meet on Saturday.

One of the Vikings’ standout runners, Berdahl had high hopes for the boys Class 6A race, both for himself and for his Forest Grove teammates, whose collective sights had been set on earning the program’s first-ever state trophy with a top-four finish.

That didn’t happen last Saturday. Instead, the team finished seventh, which still matched the best result ever by a Forest Grove boys cross-country team.

The fact that the Vikings considered tying the program’s best-ever result as a bit of a disappointment speaks to not only to the level of success that the program has attained, but also to how talented this group of boys was.

“It’s wonderful that they’re not satisfied,” Forest Grove coach Sue Fleskes said. “I’m glad they’re not satisfied, because it doesn’t feel good, coming in thinking you had a legitimate shot — and probably the most legitimate shot of any of the teams that I’ve coached.”

I hope the Vikings are not too disheartened. After all, winning a state trophy in cross-country might be more difficult than in just about any other high school sport. After all, some sports offer more trophies per tournament — six in basketball, for example.

And while others such as track and field and tennis also offer only four trophies, their state competitions take place over a matter of days rather than minutes, offering chances to make adjustments for some teammates to step up after others fail or underachieve.

It’s just not quite the same in cross-country, when a team has one shot and everybody has to perform their best at the same time. There is no halftime to regroup, no next event or consolation game to make up lost ground. Everybody runs one race and then you see how the scoring shakes out. It is beautiful but also brutal.

So to earn some hardware, much must go right for a team, while little — if anything — can go wrong.

The Vikings did not have that kind of week last week. Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinki came down with a cold earlier in the week, even missing a day of training. In Eugene, the day before the race, sophomore Murimi Nyamu had an allergic reaction to something in his room and Duncan Stewart, who ran in the team’s No. 5 spot Saturday, fell out of a window.

“This has been the most eventful state (meet) that I’ve had, actually,” Fleskes told me before the team hopped on its bus to head back home.

I’ll say. One of those incidents alone might be enough to derail a team’s trophy bid, much less four of them.

And that brings us back to Berdahl.

Typically the team’s second runner, the junior took to the Lane Community College course last week with designs on a top-20 finish, which was within his capabilities. As he told me a couple of days ago, it was not his day. During the race, he felt a tingly sensation in his arms and upper body, and he felt exhausted the whole way through.

“It didn’t really go as I wanted it to or hoped it would have,” he said.

No wonder, given how he was feeling, that he collapsed in the finishing straight, just meters away from the finish line.

Berdahl could have given up, could have stayed down on that blue track. Instead, given his lack of motor control at the time, he crawled. With his thoughts on his teammates, he crawled to and then across the finish line.

The boy paid for pushing his body past its limits. He vomited more than once afterward and seemed incoherent for a pretty good spell. After, Fleskes could not pinpoint why it had happened. The passage of a few days has been revelatory, though. In the days since, Berdahl has been ill, to the degree that he had a fever and missed school on Monday.

I am not a medical professional, but my hunch is that Berdahl was on the front edge of that illness, so he raced before he knew he was getting sick. The fall cost him some spots and his team a few points, but it did not cost Forest Grove a trophy, which Berdahl admitted did take some weight from his shoulders.

While seventh is not what the Vikings wanted, I hope they come to peace with it. Even when we work hard, sometimes things do not go our way, especially in cross-country.

Besides, you don’t need to look further than Berdahl, even, to recognize that those boys are winners.

“I am proud of myself. I am. I definitely am,” Berdahl said. “I’m definitely proud of myself for doing what I did, given the circumstances that I had, I guess.

“I’m not satisfied with how I did, but I’m happy.”

Amanda Miles can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. .




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