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...
VALLEY OF THE ROGUE STATE PARK — Gracie Tostenson got a little ahead of herself a week ago — and a little ahead of everyone else as Crater opened the cross country season.
But it didn't last.
"The first race, she kind of bolted out the first eighth of a mile," said Comets coach Justin Loftis. "She kind of set herself up because there was a really good Sunset girl in the race."
The Crater senior standout ran one of the fastest times of her career, but she was overtaken and finished second.
Her strategy was different in the Chieftain Invitational on Saturday, when Tostenson was in a 5,000-meter race that included several other top girl runners in southern Oregon. It paid off, with her cruising to a nearly 30-second victory over Phoenix junior Nevina De Luca.
Tostenson's time was 18 minutes, 41 seconds, and De Luca clocked 19:10. Freshman Zaruba Anderson of Hidden Valley was third in 19:36, overhauling Cascade Christian senior Stephanie Croy (19:51).
Hidden Valley junior Shane Crofoot won the boys race in 16:31, ahead of teammate Zach Blanco, a senior, whose time was 16:42. The next three finishers were from Crater.
In the team races, Crater won both the boys and girls titles. The boys scored 22 points, outdistancing Phoenix (50), and the girls tallied 26 points, with Phoenix in second with 44 points.
Tostenson came out of last week's Bill Chapman Invitational in Hillsboro ranked second in the state for all divisions with a time of 18:29, behind Sunset's Charlotte Corless (18:09). They since have dropped to second and fourth.
As an indication of how good those times are, each eclipsed the previous best on the course of 18:30, and among those who have run that race over its 15-year history was Annamarie Maag of Jesuit, a three-time state champion.
After Tostenson's attempt to "hammer" Corless and the others at the outset last week, Loftis preached patience and strategy for the Chieftain.
"We just talked about trying to run even splits and trying to stay in the group," he said. "I just wanted her to take it a little more tactical the first mile and then push from there. Hopefully somebody goes with her. Nevina wasn't that far behind."
Tostenson was content to take it easy through the first mile. Once there, she was greeted by a bit of shade and a cooler trip on a path along the Rogue River, and opened it up.
"It was the shade," she smiled. "I just decided from Mile 1 that I would start pushing it just to get a little lead and see what I could do.
"I knew it was going to be hot. I was just going to have to tough it out. It'll be hot at a lot of races, and you just have to work with it."
Temperatures climbed into the upper 90s in the region Saturday. Race organizers moved the meet times up a bit to avoid the hottest part of the day.
Tostenson was well aware of other top runners in the field. Croy is ranked eighth among all the state's runners and De Luca 15th.
"I was expecting some good competition just because I know those girls and I know they have great talent," said Tostenson. "I was just excited to get out there and have some competition."
About eight minutes into the race, she had opened a 40- to 50-yard lead on De Luca, who in turn was about as far ahead of Croy.
"It's definitely hard to keep pushing yourself at that point if you don't have anybody with you," said Tostenson, whose career-best cross country time is 18:12.5. "I just kept thinking to myself, you're in the lead, you've got to keep that lead."
Loftis is eager to see what Tostenson, who placed 18th in the Class 6A meet last year, can do in large events.
She's healthy and "rolling with the guys right now" in workouts, he said. "If she gets in a good race, she can really pop off a good time."
On the boys side, Crofoot and Blanco were fresh, having conserved themselves during a conference meet three days earlier when the temperature hit triple digits in Grants Pass.
"We worked it pretty hard today and it worked out," said Crofoot, adding, "I never started dying out there. I felt pretty good. I enjoyed it."
Crofoot and Blanco eased into the first half mile, avoiding the crowd at the start, then began picking off others.
"We didn't give it everything we had in the first mile," said Crofoot. "I've done that before and it toasts you for the rest of the race. Instead, I went out slower and eased into my finishing pace, and it worked out great today."
Rounding out the top five were Crater's Devin Rodman (17:00), Austin Sanders (17:09) and Darien Andrews (17:14).
TEAM SCORES — Crater 22, Phoenix 50, Cascade Christian 77, St. Mary's 108, Rogue River 138, Eagle Point 162. Incomplete: Hidden Valley, Grants Pass, North Valley, Lakeview, New Hope Christian.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 25) — 1, Shane Crofoot, HV, 16:31; 2, Zach Blanco, HV, 16:42; 3, Devin Rodman, Cra, 17:00; 4, Austin Sanders, Cra, 17:09; 5, Darien Andrews, Cra, 17:14; 6, Tim McPherson, CC, 17:18; 7, Randy Mena, Pho, 17:38; 8, Tristan Akery, CC, 17:45; 9, Tanner Shipley, Cra, 17:55; 10, Thomas Hayes, GP, 17: 55.
11, Lance Hemphill, HV, 18:05; 12, Nigel Leonis, Pho, 18:10; 13, Zach Olsen, Cra, 18:11; 14, Leif Amundsen, Pho, 18:15; 15, Kaleb Lacey, Cra, 18:17; 16, Barrett Titus, GP, 18:19; 17, Griff Hokanson, Cra, 18:22; 18, Justin Elkins, HV, 18:24; 19, Nate Goodnature, Pho, 18:25; 20, Gabriel Listro, Pho, 18:26; 21, Max Belnap, GP, 18:33; 22, Chris Martin, SM, 18:38; 23, Drake Knowles, Pho, 18:40; 24, Tracy Salgado, SM, 18:50; 25, Zeb Amos, NV, 18:51.
TEAM SCORES — Crater 26, Phoenix 44, St. Mary's 70, Cascade Christian 94. Incomplete: Hidden Valley, Grants Pass, Lakeview, North Valley, Rogue River.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 25) — 1, Gracie Tostenson, Cra, 18:41; 2, Nevina De Luca, Pho, 19:10; 3, Zaruba Anderson, HV, 19:36; 4, Stephanie Croy, CC, 19:51; 5, Megan Hastings, Cra, 20:44; 6, Maci Jokumsen, GP, 20:47; 7, Britney Wimberly, Cra, 20:56; 8, Jordan Monroe, Cra, 21:06; 9, Danielle Jantzer, Pho, 21:07; 10, Rachel Bennion, SM, 21:25.
11, Lindsey Vermillion, Pho, 21:49; 12, Alexa Scharf, Cra, 21:53; 13, Bailey Bascom, Cra, 21:55.16; 14, Tori Sigel, GP, 21:56; 15, Ashlee Vos, Pho, 22:02; 16, Lily Sabin, Lak, 22:03; 17, Madeline Volk, SM, 22:06; 18, Madison Rounsaville, GP, 22:08; 19, Shayla Potratz, Pho, 22:22; 20, Gianna Isola, SM, 22:25; 21, Meg Vasey, SM, 22:26; 22, Stephanie Lee, Cra, 22:54; 23, Taylor Kreul, SM, 22:59; 24, Alyssa Hayes, GP, 23:01; 25, Crystal Dean, NV, 23:04.
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479, or email firstname.lastname@example.org