Runners seem to be on course
A pair of Southern Oregon Conference runners established themselves Saturday as contenders for next month's Class 4A state cross country championship.
Klamath Union junior Ian Dobson and Eagle Point senior John Lucas finished 1-2 in a field of 322 runners from four states in the Northwest Cross Country Classic at Lane Community College in Eugene.
The 5,000-meter race is on the same grounds as the state meet, with the same starting and finishing points. The Classic course, however, includes a couple of different loops.
There might be stronger teams, but after Saturday's performance, it would be hard to argue against the SOC tandem.
Eagle Point junior Robby Nutter was in the lead after the first quarter mile. Dobson was second after the first hill and Lucas fourth. Dobson took the lead after one mile and held fast the rest of the way.
Dobson shaved 31 seconds off his 1997 Classic time when he finished 11th, with a winning effort of 15 minutes, 40 seconds. That's 22 seconds faster than in the 1997 state meet when he and the now-graduated Jeremy Park finished 3-4 and propelled Klamath to the 4A championship.
Traffic is the primary difference between the Classic and the state meet. There were 211 more runners on the course Saturday than in last year's 4A race.
If you don't get out and run your fastest 100-meter dash, you're done on that course, Lucas says. It seems like at state, they go out even faster than that and it's more of a problem to get out front.
On Saturday, Lucas found himself trailing by about 14 seconds after two miles.
I almost clawed my way back into it, Lucas says.
I'm a little worried about my karma on that course. But I ran a pretty good race and was satisfied.
Lucas' expectations have been high ever since he finished second in the SOC district meet as a freshman and won it the next year. But bronchial problems derailed him at the end of last season when he finished fourth at district and 20th at state.
The nagging condition caused him to miss the Sept. 24 pre-district meet at Bear Creek Park.
On Saturday, Lucas was clocked in 15:48, three seconds faster than the winning time in last year's state meet. But he determined that he'll have to get to Dobson before the stretch run.
He's beatable, says Lucas. I have to get him in the second mile. He's an endurance runner like I am, but I think in the the last mile or half mile, I'm stronger.
Lucas has upped his weekly regimen to 70-plus miles this season, and he's begun lifting weights again after not doing so for several years.
I'd say the race (Saturday) motivated me more, Lucas says. Winning the race may have made me a little complacent and maybe I would've lacked the drive. But, who knows, maybe I would have been a little more confident going into the final meets of the season, too.
Eagle Point coach Matt Pinder says the main thing is for Lucas to avoid late-season sickness.
He'll do just fine as long as he stays healthy, Pinder says.
MEANWHILE, DOWN SOUTH: While Dobson and Lucas were showing their stuff up north, down in the Bay Area, Ashland sophomore Paris Edwards had a big day as well.
Edwards became the second Ashland girl to go under 18 minutes in a 5,000-meter race at the Stanford Invitational, leading the Grizzlies to a fourth-place finish out of 29 Division — teams.
Edwards was timed in 17:54, good for second place behind Sarah Bei of Montgomery High in Santa Rosa, Calif. Bei, one of the nation's premier running prospects, was clocked in at 17:26.
There were roughly 1,000 girls running in five divisions, based on enrollment. Bei and Edwards, whose time was 40 seconds faster than her time last year, were fastest overall.
DEVELOPING DEPTH: Ashland football coach Jim Nagel feared that a key injury could derail the No. 1-ranked 1997 Grizzlies.
(Lineman) Matt Webb was out for the Sandy (playoff) game and obviously it didn't hurt us, Nagel says. The next week he wasn't in there, and we lost (to Tigard). You notice he wasn't in there, and that might have been the difference.
I guess that's why they call linemen unsung heroes. You expect them to get the job done and nobody makes too big of a deal about it.
But early-season injuries might actually help the Grizzlies this fall.
There's some truth to that, Nagel says. The bottom line is that the kids we have put in have stepped up and done the job.
When two-way tackle Ryan Hansen and offensive tackle-defensive end Nick Bakke were hobbled, other youngsters were plugged in and played remarkably well.
Guard Ryan Schorovsky was shifted from guard to Hansen's tackle slot. Mike Rydbom and sophomore Ben Holtey filled in at Schorovsky's guard spot.
In Friday's 35-0 win over Eagle Point, Hansen was joined by Eli Perkins at tackle, Schorovsky and Holtey were the guards and Roger Walsh the center.
At the start of the season, Bakke was the lone full-time regular returning on the offensive line. An ankle injury limited him, and he played mainly on defense.
We had eight or nine kids we could depend on on our offensive and defensive lines last year, Nagel says. This year, it's nine or 10 and they're getting more (quality) game time.
(Greg Stiles is a Mail Tribune sports writer. He can be reached at 776-4483.)