ASHLAND — Saturday shaped up as a perfect day in nearly every way for the Ashland boys cross country team.
E.J. Holland set the Lithia Park course record with a time of 15 minutes, 28.97 seconds and five Ashland runners finished in the top 11, amounting to a dominant team victory in the State of Jefferson Cross Country Invitational.
Holland, a sophomore who last year was fifth in the state’s 5A division (14th among all divisions), wanted to make amends for last year’s State of Jefferson, in which he fell early in the race and placed sixth in 16:28.
“I just wanted to do as well as I knew I could,” Holland said. “When I came out this morning, I thought, ‘I feel good, I’m going to go for the course record.’ I didn’t know if it was going to happen. I was hoping for it and I was just pushing all the way through.”
“The course record set last year (15:36.32) was by a state champion (Crater’s Andy Monroe), so I’m on my way to becoming a state champion, hopefully.”
Crater was not among the 11 schools in this year’s meet, removing Ashland’s chief competitor for the boys’ title, and the Grizzlies were more than ready to fill the void.
Alex Franklin, a senior, followed Holland across the finish line in 15:53.30, while sophomore Arlo Davis was fifth (16:41.36), freshman Reed Pryor was seventh (16:53.99) and sophomore Henry Williams was 11th (17:06.57).
“We’ve been working a lot this season on getting that pack formed, and so with E.J. running the course record today, it was really important that our fifth guy was coming in really close to his time,” Ashland coach Ryan King said. “And so the way that they ran today, they executed the race plan perfectly and we’ve just gotta keep this pack mentality up and going until our district meet.”
“This was crucial,” he added. “This was the confidence boost that we needed. More importantly it got the boys congealed and they are ready to run as a pack.”
Franklin, who distanced himself from Phoenix senior Robby Vos (third in 16:36.76) and South Medford senior Luke Ramirez (fourth in 16:39.31), posted a time nearly a full minute faster than his previous best on the course.
“Personally, this is the hardest course for me because of all the hills,” Franklin said. “Today the first mile hurt pretty bad, more than any other race, just because of the first half-mile, that uphill sprint. But because this is my senior year, this is my last race here, ever, I knew I had to leave everything out there.”
“This is probably the best team Ashland High School has ever had,” he added. “When I was a freshman, our fastest guy was hitting low 17s. So now we’ve got a freshman that was running 15:50 and now 15:30 as a sophomore. Our goal is to win state and I believe that we can do that easily this year with this team.”
In the 5,000-meter girls race, freshman sensation Emma Schmerbach of South Medford turned in a winning time of 18:43.27 while distancing herself from Kennedy senior Kaylin Cantu (second in 19:00.39) and University Prep freshman Grace Gaddy (third in 19:47.96).
Schmerbach was excited to face stiffer competition and also enjoyed the idyllic, sunny conditions in a majestic setting, she said.
“We went out a little fast and then we started to get into our pace, so the first mile was a little fast but the second and third it was better — it was a more consistent pace,” Schmerbach said.
“It was great weather and it was a fast race, so I liked it,” she added.
Teamwise, the North Medford girls — paced by the tight grouping of senior Claire Ebert (fourth in 20:06.09) and freshman Emily Nash (fifth in 20:07.47) — placed first overall, besting South Medford, 53-74.
The Black Tornado, however, was missing a key runner due to illness and overall had an “off-day,” North coach Pete Voskis said.
“We adjusted mid-race pretty well,” Voskis said. “It’s a good, strong effort and I’m excited for the second half (of the season).”
“Our team goal is to win the (Southwest Conference) district title,” he added. “The objective is you learn from every meet. I think we’ll take a lot away from this and apply it over the next three weeks.”
TEAM RESULTS: Ashland 26, South Medford 69, Grants Pass 95, North Medford 104, Atwater 117, University Prep 137, Phoenix 203, Hidden Valley 207, Kennedy 218, Mazama 256, Henley 268.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 20): 1, Evan Holland, Ash, 15:28.97; 2, Alex Franklin, Ash, 15:53.30; 3, Robby Vos, Phx, 16:36.76; 4, Luke Ramirez, SM, 16:39.31; 5, Arlo Davis, Ash, 16:41.36; 6, Truett Bostwick, SM, 16:42.05; 7, Reed Pryor, Ash, 16:53.99; 8, Justin Matties UP, 16:57.70; 9, Jacob Allmaras, NM, 17:01.56; 10, Isaac Burgess, GP, 17:01.82;
11. Henry Williams, Ash, 17:06.57; 12, Reed Hungerford, SM, 17:06.82; 13, Dimitri Underwood, GP, 17:15.59; 14. Abraham Maldonado, Atw, 17:26.36; 15, Henry Cobb, Ash, 17:26.59; 16, Emmanuel Perez, Atw, 17:28.98; 17, Christian Lane, UP, 17:37.31; 18, Cedar Davis, GP, 17:38.15; 19, Peyton Schaflke, NM, 17:40.63; 20, Johan Jordaan, SM, 17:40.93.
TEAM RESULTS: North Medford 53, South Medford 74, Ashland 87, Grants Pass 98, University Prep 102, Atwater 144, Kennedy 150, Henley 209, Phoenix 234, Mt Shasta 239, Mazama 289.
INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 20): 1, Emma Schmerbach, SM, 18:43.27; 2, Kaylin Cantu, Ken, 19:00.39; 3, Grace Gaddy, UP, 19:47.96; 4, Claire Ebert, NM, 20:06.09; 5, Emily Nash, NM, 20:07.47; 6, Alejandra Lopez, Ken, 20:07.94; 7, Sage Reddish, Ash, 20:08.77; 8, Jazmin Duncan, SM, 20:11.58; 9, Faith Schultz, GP, 20:12.22; 10, Clara Harman, Atw, 20:15.52;
11. MJ Hamilton, NM, 20:18.55; 12, Cassidy Caprari, Ash, 20:19.80; 13, Victoria Messer, NM, 20:38.93; 14, Marissa Bonivert, MS, 20:55.84; 15, Deanndria Shields, SM, 20:56.83; 16, Sally Berg, HV, 20:57.57; 17, Emily McAllister, SM, 21:00.76; 18, Melody McGrath, GP, 21:04.61; 19, Milan Hague, Ash, 21:05.58; 20, Hannah Cusworth, UP, 21:13.43.