EUGENE — Almost every part of Robby Vos’ body cooperated as he set out to win the Class 4A boys cross country state championship Saturday.
The Phoenix senior began to feel discomfort in his chest about halfway into the 5,000-meter race at Lane Community College in Eugene, derailing his hopes of challenging Scappoose’s John Kavulich for the crown.
Kavulich, a senior who was runner-up last year, pulled away for a dominating victory in 16 minutes, 23 seconds. Vos settled for third — the same as in 2016 — with a time of 16:47. He trailed runner-up Jordan Pollard of Sisters, who clocked 16:34.
Outside of the Class 5A boys meet, in which Crater dominated, Vos was the top Rogue Valley finisher as boys and girls championships in all classifications were conducted.
Crater’s girls placed third in 5A, led by senior Ariana Marks, who earned a medal for a top-10 placing by taking eighth. The top four teams collect trophies, and Ashland came up just shy, garnering fifth.
South Medford freshman Emma Schmerbach was impressive in climbing to seventh in the 6A girls meet.
St. Mary’s junior Emma Bennion was ninth and the Crusaders sixth in the 3A/2A/1A girls meet.
Vos hadn’t been ill and said he had “no idea” why he had chest issues. Even as he walked to the medals podium following the race, he occasionally pressed his hands to his chest.
“I was coming in hoping to at least compete for the win,” he said. “But around halfway, my chest started hurting and I couldn’t get a full breath in. I just had to struggle to get what I did get.”
He and Kavulich were the top two returners from a year ago and had the best times in the state entering the meet.
In four or five races against Kavulich, said Vos, he’d beaten his rival most of the time. At state last year, Vos slipped and fell on a hill and finished three seconds behind the Indians’ standout.
“Coming in this year, I was really hoping to try to stay with him and get a better kick than him on the track, but I didn’t have a chance,” said Vos.
The course on the Lane campus finishes with the final 300 meters on the stadium track.
Once he lost touch with Kavulich, Vos set his sights on Pollard, a friend of his. The Pirate’s legs cooperated, said Vos, but not his chest.
Marks and Crater put together a strong effort. She had the state’s 16th-best time entering the meet.
“I had no idea where I was going to be, but I was really eager to be in the top 10,” she said.
It was the first time she’s medaled in cross country. Her time of 19:17 was 43 seconds faster than last year, when she placed 22nd.
“I think I knew about the second mile I was doing pretty good,” said Marks. “I wasn’t too tired and I knew I could hang with that group.”
“That” group was mostly Summit girls. The Storm had the first perfect score in championship-meet history, sweeping the top five places in team scoring and tallying 15 points.
Crater scored 93 and Ashland 141.
Comets sophomore Presley Robison was 17th in 19:43, and freshman Mariah Kinney was 19th in 19:49.
Ashland’s top placer was sophomore Cassidy Caprari, 18th in 19:45.
Schmerbach’s goals were to make the top 10 and be the top freshman. Check and check.
“I’m very excited and just happy I accomplished that,” she said.
Her time was 18:26.
“I planned to go out with the top pack and just play it easy the first mile,” she said, “because everyone kind of goes out fast. And then through the race, just try and stay in the top eight.”
She got passed near the end, but promptly returned the favor.
South Medford’s girls team placed 15th, scoring 329 points.
North Medford placed ninth with 263 points. The top placer for the Black Tornado was Claire Ebert, a senior who came in 42nd in 19:38.
In the 6A boys meet, South Medford placed 12th with 283 points. It was led by senior Luke Ramirez, 36th in 16:41.
North Medford junior Jacob Allmaras was 29th in 16:33.
Bennion led St. Mary’s to 162 team points. Her time was 19:56.
She, too, was motivated to break into the top 10.
“That’s always been the goal,” she said.
She surveyed times online and realized there were strong runners to contend with.
“I was like, OK, I’ve got to really push it this race,” she said. “So I just tried to keep a steady pace, lengthened my strides and pushed up the hill, and it worked out for me.”
Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 541-776-4479 or firstname.lastname@example.org