CENTRAL POINT — After Andy Monroe heard doctors tell him he wasn’t supposed to run cross country this year, the Crater High senior decided he couldn’t accept their advice.

“I didn’t want to ruin my cross country season like that,” Monroe said. “So I’m just kind of in a positive mindset — however it goes, I’m just happy to be out here running again.”

There was plenty for Monroe to be happy about Wednesday at Jackson County Expo, where he triumphed in the boys 5,000-meter race in the Max King Invitational for the second straight year.

Coming off a major foot injury he incurred in the 5A state track finals, Monroe turned in his fastest time of this season (15 minutes, 28.4 seconds) — finishing side-by-side with teammate Jantz Tostenson (15:28.5) — while leading the host Comets to a commanding victory in the boys team competition.

“That was really fun,” said Monroe, who exchanged a fist-bump with his teammate as they came across the finish together. “(Tostenson) got a big PR so I was really happy to be there with him on that.”

Crater’s dominating performance included a third-place finish by Derek Tripp (15:43.9) and a seventh-place finish by Erik Olsen (16:07.2 ), while the grouping of Gabe Southmayd (16:11.5), Gage Reed (16:15.6) and Ryland McCullough (16:19.1) finished ninth through 11th, giving the Comets six of the top 11 runners.

“These kind of races are just really big team-building kind of races, so we always have the goal to keep as many guys together for as long as possible, and also get some fast times while we’re at it,” Monroe said.

Winning the race was familiar territory for Monroe, the defending 5A state champion, unlike the many hours he spent in the pool during the summer, while rehabbing his torn plantar fascia — with no running.

“It was rough but we got back into it,” he said. “It was kind of weird.”

Monroe, who said he’s now about 75 to 80 percent in shape, got back into training “pretty quick” at the end of the summer — a late start to the season — and “it’s been kind of a hurry-up process to get into racing shape,” he said. “I think we’ll definitely get there by the end the year, though.”

If Wednesday’s run was any indication, Monroe is back on course as he gears up for his defining, end-of-season meets in November and December.

“It felt really smooth,” he said. “It definitely is showing that the plan’s working out and it was definitely a point in the right direction.”

One of the event’s bigger storylines was the absence of Ashland sophomore E.J. Holland, who’s turned heads this season by winning all five races he’s run.

Holland chose to instead compete Friday in a meet in McMinnville, Grizzlies coach Ryan King said.

“We just wanted to get him some exposure up north against some of the 6A schools,” King said. “It’s all good. We talked and he wanted to race up north, so that’s all.”

Minus Holland, Ashland’s boys ended up fourth in the team standings, led by senior Alex Franklin’s fourth-place finish.

“The boys ran great and we’re getting ready in two weeks for district, so it should be good,” King said. “(Holland) is still leading this team. He warmed up and was there and cheering them on, so his leadership role is still solid.”

In the girls 5,000-meter race, South Medford freshman Emma Schmerbach continued her savant season by coming within 2.4 seconds of the course record with a time of 18:17.7. She bested second-place finisher Ariana Marks, a Crater senior, by more than a minute.

Schmerbach, who said she enjoyed being cooled by the blustery weather, was shooting for a personal record on the flat, fast course and she got it.

“(My focus was on) just going out fast and getting a good pace and doing my best to keep my splits close together,” Schmerbach said.

In the girls team competition, Ashland edged Crater 45-50 by placing four runners in the top 11. Scoring for the Grizzlies were Cassidy Caprari (third in 19:31.4), Sage Reddish (fifth in 19:49.2), Hazel Richards (eighth in 20:00.1), Milan Hague (11th in 20:07.3) and Maddie Armstrong (18th in 20:27.2).

Boys

TEAM RESULTS: Crater 22, Grants Pass 80, South Medford 81, Ashland 85, Marshfield 178, Klamath Union 184, North Medford 215, Hidden Valley 219, Lakeview 243, Phoenix 258, North Valley 347, St Mary's 354, Henley 382, Rogue Valley Adventist 410.

INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 20): 1, Andy Monroe, Cra, 15:28.4; 2, Jantz Tostenson, Cra, 15:28.5; 3, Derek Tripp, Cra, 15:43.9; 4, Alex Franklin, Ash, 15:54.2; 5, Daniel Beckstead, GP, 16:00.8; 6, Robby Vos, Phx, 16:04.8; 7, Erik Olsen, 16:07.2; 8, Luke Ramirez, SM, 16:10.2; 9, Gabe Southmayd, Cra, 16:11.5; 10, Gage Reed, Cra,16:15.6;

11, Ryland McCullough, Cra, 16:19.1; 12, Nathan Burton, GP, 16:21.2; 13, Truett Bostwick, SM, 16:21.4; 14, Jacob Allmaras, NM, 16:28.0; 15, Henry Williams, Ash, 16:29.9; 16, Reed Pryor, Ash, 16:31.6; 17, Ty Boster, SM, 16:33.2; 18, Isaac Burgess, GP, 16:42.4; 19, Henry Cobb, Ash, 16:45.0; 20, Reed Hungerford, SM, 16:47.0.

Girls

TEAM RESULTS: Ashland 45, Crater 50, Grants Pass 81, South Medford 107, Marshfield 169, St Mary's 174, Klamath Union 215, Phoenix 223, North Medford 236, Lakeview 255, Henley 265.

INDIVIDUAL RESULTS (Top 20): 1, Emma Schmerbach, SM, 18:17.7; 2, Ariana Marks, Cra, 19:18.3; 3, Cassidy Caprari, Ash, 19:31.4; 4, Jazmin Chavez, Mar, 19:34.0; 5, Sage Reddish, Ash, 19:49.2; 6, Faith Schultz, GP, 19:52.5; 7, Emma Bennion, St.M, 19:52.7; 8, Hazel Richards, Ash, 20:00.1; 9, Mariah Kinney, Cra, 20:01.8; 10, Presley Robison, Cra, 20:02.5;

11, Milan Hague, Ash, 20:07.3; 12, Kaylee Delzotti, Mar, 20:11.2; 13, Sarah Sturley, GP, 20:12.6; 14, Kylie Caldwell, Cra, 20:13.0; 15, Taryn Dance, Cra, 20:14.0; 16, Jade Hopkins, Cra, 20:14.0; 17, Gracen Hokanson, Cra, 20:24.9; 18, Maddie Armstrong, Ash, 20:27.2; 19, Samantha Dara, GP, 20:28.5; 20, Abby Durrant, GP, 20:29.2.

Reach sports reporter Mike Oxendine at 541-776-4499 or moxendine@mailtribune.com.