Winning the Southern Cascade League title seemed like a pretty bold goal this spring considering the recent history of the Cascade Christian...
EUGENE — One could debate where, exactly, the key moment of North Medford's success Saturday at the 6A boys state cross country championships occurred.
At the finish line, where the numbers added up to third place, the highest in school history?
One thousand yards out, near a couple ponds on the 5,000-meter course at Lane Community College, where the calculating Black Tornado runners positioned themselves?
Or, a day earlier, in the school library, where motivational missives and videos stoked fires within.
Suffice to say, all were important.
Junior Ray Schireman and senior Blake Spencer — penciled out to finish no better than in the 30s individually and in the low 20s for team scoring — each cracked the top 10 to lead the Black Tornado to 85 points, just nine off second-place Jesuit. Central Catholic won with 52 points.
Schireman was seventh in 16 minutes, 16 seconds, just one second off his personal best, also set on the Lane CC course earlier this season in the Northwest Classic.
"It might be good luck," he grinned.
Spencer was ninth in 16:19.
Behind them came Caleb Diaz in 22nd, Devyn Baldovino in 34th and Aaran Fagan in 42nd.
"I don't think I would have run half as strong if it wasn't for my team," said Spencer. "We've been working toward this for three or four years. This is the culmination of all our efforts."
All of the state races were held at the site, unfolding in warm, dry temperatures ideal for running.
In other boys divisions, short-handed Class 3A Cascade Christian managed to hang in for fourth place, where it was seeded, and earned a trophy. The top four teams are awarded trophies.
In 4A, the Cornish twins, Jonathan and David, finished third and fourth, respectively, to lead North Valley to second place, while their Skyline Conference mate, Hidden Valley, placed fourth.
North Medford's previous best finish was fourth place, accomplished in 2006 and in '09.
To prepare his team, coach Piet Voskes gathered the Southwest Conference champions Friday, showed them a picture of former North Medford runner Drew Jordan winning state in 2008 and presented a letter from the current member of the Washington State cross country and track teams.
"He told us to do what North Medford does," said Schireman, "and that's to come from out of nowhere."
Voskes also showed video of his own graduation from Ashland High, in which noted runner and alumnus Pete Julian spoke. It was a strong message, one Voskes thinks all his runners "took to heart."
How could they not? Their coach recited it as they warmed up doing "strides" before the race.
"Basically," said Schireman, "it was that you don't have to have anyone's permission to do what you want to do."
Voskes' philosophy is that the race changes little once the runners near the school's track, signifying the final 300 meters. So he wanted them to make their moves between 2,000 and 3,000 meters.
"They all did that," he said.
When they did hit the track, he asked his Nos. 3, 4 and 5 runners to pick off at least five runners ahead of them. They could account for 20 points or so by finishing strong.
Again, they came through. Baldovino reeled in close to 10 himself.
"He has speed," nodded Schireman.
"That's sounds like Baldovino," said Spencer, who, like Schireman, was in the finishing tent at the time.
"I'm proud of them," said Voskes. "They put it on the line, all of them. They were offensive as they finished this thing.
"So often, kids hit this track and just try to survive. Our kids were motivated to run the full race."
Crater had one entrant, Daniel Stoiber, and he placed 26th in 16:40.
In the 3A race, Cascade Christian was without a couple of injured runners and one who was sick, but the Challengers came together, showing both substance to go with style.
They sported Mohawk haircuts, a decision they made for team bonding purposes following a fifth straight district crown last week, said Alex Cummings, a senior who led the way.
Cascade Christian scored 131 points, just five ahead of Southwest Christian. Union, following the lead of its champion girls team, won with 93 points.
"This is a family," said Cummings. "We wanted to be on that podium."
Cummings was 17th in 17:27, and Tristan Akery, a sophomore, was 20th in 17:44.
In the 4A race, Siuslaw dominated, with Matthew Campbell edging teammate Mitchell Butler at the finish line for the individual title. The Vikings won the team championship with 29 points to North Valley's 52. Hidden Valley scored 122, coming in behind La Salle.
"It's kind of tough with Siuslaw," said Jonathan Cornish, who also edged his brother at the district meet. "But we're happy with second."
The Cornish brothers were both timed at 16:02. Similarly, Siuslaw teammates Campbell and Butler had the same time, 15:49.
The Cornishes were side-by-side when they hit the track for the last surge.
"We have a lot of competition between us," said Jonathan. "It was fun. I look up to him. He's my older brother "… by 15 minutes."
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org