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Clark leads the charge for Grizz girls; Jordan spurs North to first state berth

GRANTS PASS ' The Southern Oregon Conference girls cross country championships were supposed to feature a cast of thousands.

But a solo act broke out.

Ashland was regarded as merely one of five teams with a shot at the team title Saturday at the All-Sports Park, but the Grizzlies believed otherwise.

We knew that none of us would have to run personal records or above our normal levels, said senior Kendall Clark. We knew as long as we all just ran to our abilities, we'd be able to do it.

With Clark leading the way, Ashland had the fourth-, fifth- and sixth-place runners and easily pulled away from the field, scoring 43 points for its third championship in four years.

North Medford edged out Grants Pass for second place, 74 points to 76, and Klamath Union and Roseburg followed at 83 and 84, respectively.

As runner-up, the Black Tornado ' fortified by individual champion Danielle Jordan ' qualified for state for the first time since Medford split into two high schools in 1986.

Jordan survived a blistering pace established by Crater sophomore Kendel Nelson and covered the 5,000 meters in 19 minutes, 3.1 seconds.

Nelson was second in 19:18.0, and Katie Leary of Klamath Union was third in 19:31.9.

The top two teams and top seven individuals advanced to next Saturday's state meet at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Ashland didn't set any personal bests ' an ambiguous barometer anyway, given cross country courses vary greatly ' but its runners did lop large chunks of time off their marks from the pre-district meet last month on the same track.

Therese McCaffrey (19:41.8) and freshman Hannah Clark (19:59.1) each eclipsed 20 minutes when neither ran faster than 21&

189; at pre-district.

Mariah Mayfield improved even more, placing ninth for the Grizzlies in 20:35.3, nearly three minutes faster than pre-district.

That was huge, said Ashland coach Bob Julian Jr. Most of the time this year, she hasn't been where she has been in the past. But she came back today with a total clutch performance.

North Medford was not without its own resurgent runners, particularly Kailey Bostwick, whose 16th-place finish was a monster jump from pre-district and placed her third on the team behind Jordan and 11th-place Alicia Preston.

Obviously, said North coach Marnie Mason, it helps to have that No. — runner, but you have to have the whole team there to go. All the girls ran very well.

Ah, that No. 1.

Jordan, the Class 3A state runner-up while competing for Baker last year, ran a great race, said Mason, given the surprising pace.

We were going at such a fast pace, we were all oxygen dead, said Jordan. We were killing each other off.

Nelson was the culprit. She took control early and led through the first mile plus.

I was going to try and tuck in behind Danielle and draft off her, said the Comet, but the girls were going a little too slow, in my opinion, so I went out. A lot of them said afterwards I almost gave them a heart attack.

Jordan included. She did the first mile in 5:50.

That's the first time (Nelson's) done that, said the Black Tornado junior. We were going under a 6-minute mile pace, so I was a little freaked. That's fast for me.

We were all gunning it, so that was cool. It made it an honest race.

Jordan plugged away and took command in the second mile.

In the end, the pace of the race might prove advantageous to Jordan, who will be among the top runners at state.

That's what they're going to do there, said Mason.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail