It happened rather unceremoniously, but there was a changing of the guard last Monday and Tuesday for one of the state’s biggest high...
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EUGENE — It was a reunion of sorts for Skyline Conference girl cross country runners at the state championships Saturday.
The same three who dominated the league were at it again, finishing in the top four spots in the Class 4A 5,000-meter race at Lane Community College.
Only interloper — and victor — Katy Potter of Siuslaw broke up the Skyline party, taking the lead when favorite Alisha Luna of Klamath Union faltered after a blistering start. Potter was followed by Sierra Brown of Hidden Valley and Luna, the two-time defending champion.
Nevina De Luca, a Phoenix sophomore, was fourth, improving on her seventh-place finish of a year ago on an ideal day for racing.
Brown repeated her runner-up finish of last season.
Meanwhile, at the 3A/2A/1A level, Cascade Christian's Stephanie Croy, a junior, placed fifth, and St. Mary's, the District 6 champion, barely missed a trophy with a fifth-place finish. The top four teams earn hardware.
In 6A, the South Medford girls, paced by Carmen Mejia and Lela Stemple, grabbed sixth place, well back of winner Grant and one spot behind Southwest Conference rival South Eugene.
In the 4A race, the senior Luna opened with a near sprint, building a 20-meter lead less than a minute in.
Having competed against her conference compatriot for years, the senior Brown showed patience, as did the senior Potter.
When Luna's pace slowed, they were ready.
Potter won in 18 minutes, 56 seconds, and Brown came in at 19:04. Luna's time was 19:29 and De Luca's 19:45.
Brown had defeated Luna in last week's district meet. It didn't surprise her when the KU runner bolted at the start.
"She kind of does that every year," said Brown. "I knew that was going to happen. At district, that's what she did and I was able to catch back up to her and pass her."
Potter, however, had created too big of a gap to overcome.
"I was just able to maintain," said Brown.
De Luca was shooting for a top-five finish. The course ends on the school track, and when she hit it, De Luca was in fifth place, about 5 meters behind Amanda Welch of La Grande, who is also a sophomore.
The Pirate standout overtook Welch with about 200 meters to go and beat her to the finish line by one second.
"I was like, well, this is the last 300 meters of the race, so I might as well give it my all," said De Luca, "instead of regretting it and saying later, 'Oh, I should have gone.'"
In the 3A/2A/1A race, Croy ran fifth most of the way and finished there, one spot off where she placed a year ago.
"I'm not happy, not sad," she shrugged. "I'm just glad I was able to compete and stick with it."
A fast early pace broke out and it took a toll after the first mile.
"I felt really tired my second mile," said Croy. "Besides that, it was good."
The St. Mary's girls were led by freshman Taylor Kreul, who was 22nd in 21:18, and senior Brooklyn Gillespie, who was 29th in 21:38.
Mejia placed 33rd for the Panthers, who were ranked sixth entering the meet. Her time was 19:58. Stemple, a sophomore, was 38th, clocking 20:12.
Crater's Gracie Tostenson carried the Comets' colors, placing 18th in 19:02.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email email@example.com