Saint Marys prepares for a run at the big-school state title, while Centrals runners also expect to be in contention

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - St. Marys junior Paige Rice broke out to a comfortable lead in the first mile and was never challenged at district Wednesday.

The St. Mary’s girls cross country team expects a wide-open battle for the big school racing title when teams converge on Eugene in two weekends. But Wednesday’s district final was more of a formality for the Blues, who stormed the Mount Hood Conference with a near-perfect score.

The Blues won the meet with 21 points (15 is perfection), placing their full varsity seven among the top 10 finishers.

Junior Paige Rice led the race start to finish, coming in at 17:46.80 — a full 100 meters ahead of teammate Ellen Patterson. She pulled away in the second mile and spent the last half of the race with only her shadow giving chase.

“We started the season knowing this group had some big potential,” Rice said. “It was exciting going into our core training knowing what we had, and that’s all coming together now.”

She points largely to the shrinking gap between the team’s lead pack and its supporting group. On Wednesday, the entire team came in under 19:40 with its No. 4 through 7 racers hitting the line less than 40 seconds apart.

Rice also has her sights set on defending her individual crown in Eugene after edging South Eugene sophomore Sara Tsai by one second last season.

“It’s really competitive this year with so many girls in it for that top spot,” Rice said. “You have some girls with really big kicks and some grinders who are going to take it out fast. I just want to stay engaged throughout the race, let it come down to that last 300 meters and go for it.”

Gresham overcame a season of injuries and illness, putting together its full lineup for the first time Wednesday to claim the league’s final spot to Eugene. The Gophers were second with 77 points, led with top-10 finishes by Kennedy Martin and Haley McDonald.

by: PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP: DAVID BALL - Central Catholics Kyle Thompson led start to finish in the boys race.

Central Catholic won the boys meet with 26 points, putting its full counting five racers among the top eight finishers. Kyle Thompson spent the entire race alone in front, winning in 15:24.20.

Barlow erased an early seven-point deficit against Reynolds, surging over the last mile to overtake the Raiders for the league’s last spot to state. The Bruins finished with 53 points — nine ahead of Reynolds. Jackson Haselnus led the Bruins in second overall with a time of 15:49.90.

View a photo gallery from the meet at …

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