Athletic directors at the Class 5A level have proven to be the most invested in controlling their own playoff destiny since a switch to the...
State championships wrap up the season for many sports, but that's not the case in cross country, where regional meets and other specialty races can fill the schedule several weeks after competing for your school.
Crater standouts Gracie Tostenson, Sarah Hastings, Neil Seibert and Jon Obeso were four of a handful of local runners who took competition to another level on Sunday as part of the Nike Border Clash 13 in Beaverton. The cross country meet is an annual showcase of the top high school runners from Oregon and Washington, and the harriers from the north got the best of the local group yet again on the 4,387-meter course that covers the Nike World Headquarters Campus.
Washington runners swept the first five spots in the boys and girls races that pits one state against the other, with the Washington boys claiming their seventh straight team title with a 15 to 50 edge in points over Oregon and the Washington girls winning their third straight Border Clash crown and sixth in the past seven years with a 15 to 48 edge in points scored.
Such a dominant run begs the question, why has Washington so consistently run away from Oregon in recent years?
"There's no real reason why Washington wins every year, I don't think," said Crater cross country head coach Justin Loftus, who was on hand for the event. "They're three times the size of Oregon, and I know some people think that's a factor, but I think they just have some better individuals right now. Back when we started that meet, (Oregon) had better individuals and now the six classifications has watered it down."
In Loftus' explanation, which carries considerable weight given his program's state championship success over the years, Washington runners have been aided over the years by nationally-rated runners who help raise the bar for training by others aiming to compete with them at a local level.
"They have three of four guys that are ranked in the nation," said Loftus, "and when you're running against someone like that in a conference meet or state meet — consistently running against better competition — the expectations are that you're just going to have to run faster to compete. It's the same with the girls. They have a couple girls that are ranked third and sixth in the nation."
That translates well to Washington meets, with fewer classifications forcing more crossover between top runners and programs. Since Oregon went to six classes, Loftus said it's more difficult to see such consistent challenges.
"We're not going out and trying to race a lot of the best teams in the state because we don't have to," said Loftus. "You go against whatever classification you're in because that's who you're going to have to compete with later."
One saving grace for Loftus and company is that the Southwest Conference, of which Crater is affiliated in cross country running, was well-represented Sunday. In the girls' competition, South Eugene's Sara Tsai was the top Oregon finisher by placing sixth in 16 minutes, 19 seconds, and classmate Erin Clark was ninth as Oregon's No. 2 runner in 16:31.
Katie Knight from North Central High in Spokane, Wash., won the girls race in 15:44. Tostenson was the top finisher from here in the Rogue Valley, placing 33rd in 17:09.
"Gracie ran really well," Loftus said of the sophomore. "She ran regionals last week and didn't have the best race. She wanted to come back and be a little more competitive and I think she did that."
Hidden Valley's Sierra Brown was 37th (17:15) as the next-fastest local girl, followed by South Medford's Lauren Morgan (43rd, 17:25), Crater's Sarah Hastings (46th, 17:26), Cascade Christian's Stephanie Croy (70th, 18:10) and Phoenix's Nevina De Luca (18:23).
On the boys' side, Anthony Armstrong of Kamiakin High in Kennewick, Wash., won in 13:48 as his state claimed the top eight spots and 12 of the top 13. Summit's Travis Neuman was Oregon's top finisher in ninth place at 14:04, while this area's top mark was turned in by North Valley's Jonathon Cornish (35th, 14:41).
Seibert turned in a time of 14:50 to place 46th, while fellow Crater senior Obeso was 73rd in 15:18.
FROM THE TIME THAT Bill Singler Sr., watched the first of eight grandchildren compete at South Medford High, there have been many positives for the Panthers.
The South Medford football program, however, will be asked to turn another leaf next fall after a decade of contributions from the Singler and Boyd families, all directly related to Poppa Singler himself.
Since 2001, South Medford's football team has had at least one member of that clan in uniform but that will all change now that the final grandchild — Jack Singler — wrapped up his football career with last Friday's second-round loss to Roseburg.
In those 11 years with teams featuring the likes of Logan and Griff Boyd and Kyle, E.J., Mitch and Jack Singler, the Panthers won 68 percent of their games (79-38) and enjoyed 10 winning seasons — missing the playoffs only in 2001 and '06.
In 2001, South Medford was 7-2 and ranked ninth in the state but was denied a playoff spot due to a tiebreaker. The 2006 team figured to be led by Kyle Singler at quarterback before he opted to skip his senior campaign to stay healthy and focus on basketball, which paid off with the Panthers' first state championship later that school year.
Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, firstname.lastname@example.org, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry