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Cross-country teams shake off a tough league meet with a solid showing at Twilight Invitational

MARYSVILLE, Wash. — After enduring a tough home meet and surviving a massive field at the Nike Twilight XC Invitational, the Newberg cross-country team is pretty glad to have last week in the rearview mirror. SETH GORDON - Hunter Bensman and Nathaniel Blair work their way around the course at Newberg High School Sept. 28 during a dual meet versus Tualatin. Bensman placed eighth overall to finish as Newberg's second runner, while Blair was 14th.

With that behind them, the Tigers will host their annual invitational Saturday at Champoeg State Heritage Area and look forward to one final league race before getting some needed time off before the district meet Oct. 25.

The Newberg girls entered their three-way meet versus Tualatin and St. Mary's Academy with a 4-0 mark in the Three Rivers League, but lost one of its top runners after the first mile and could not recover.

The Tigers did have dual-sport athlete Casey Novak available for a midweek race for the first time this season, but senior captain Savanna Salmons withdrew from the race due to injury. While Newberg was not going to beat the Blues, who prevailed 18-41, the Timberwolves took advantage to post a 23-25 victory.

Novak went on to finish fourth overall in 20:10.9 and sophomore Abigail Hein followed in ninth at 20:51.27. Had Salmons been able to stick with Hein, like she's done all season, NHS coach Bruce Sinkbeil believes it might have been enough to turn the tide versus Tualatin, so he told the team to focus on themselves and prepare to see the Timberwolves again at the district meet.

Also scoring for Newberg were Kendall McKibbon in 15th (22:20.22), Sophie Nelson in 16th (22:21.47) and Macy Showalter in 17th (22:52.36).

The boys were without junior James Busch, who sat out injured, and could not keep pace with Tualatin, which took the top three places and cruised to a 17-44 win.

Senior Carson Herrick turned in his best race of the season to place fourth, although the slow conditions, including fresh bark chips on much of the course, meant his time of 18:00.61 didn't quite match his performance.

"He said that he felt it was his best race of the season and I think it was," Sinkbeil said. "But our course isn't very fast normally and it was also pretty hot."

Junior Hunter Bensman had a strong race to place eighth in 18:41.05, with senior Hunter Whitehead just behind in ninth (18:47.30).

Freshman Jonathan Rolfe and senior Andrew Cartales also came in as a pair, with Rolfe placing 12th in 18:59.40 and Cartales 13th in 18:59.68.

The Tiger girls bounced back well Saturday at the massive Twilight event at Cedarcrest Golf Course in Marysville, Wash., placing 14th out of 35 teams.

Hein led the way with a new PR, crossing in 19:41 to place 34th. Salmons returned and maintained her form, finishing 53rd in 20:09. Although Newberg was without Novak, Macy Showalter stepped up with a new personal-best time of 20:48 to place 87th and help fill the void.

Sisters Rachel and Bailey Sherwood rounded out the scoring, placing 108th and 110th in 21:14 and 21:16, respectively. Although she didn't score in the meet, Sicily Hampton was called up from junior varsity and posted a new PR of 22:03 to place 145th.

Whitehead put forth a great performance to lead the boys to a 24th-place team finish, crossing in 17:10 to set a new PR and place 93rd. Also breaking 18:00 were Herrick, who was 122nd in 17:32, and Bensman, who placed 144th in 17:51.

The Tigers will compete for the last time before districts at a three-way league meet versus West Linn and Canby Oct. 11 at Molalla River State Park, then will have two weeks to prepare for districts.

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