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Tornado's Jordan reigns in the rain

EUGENE — Drew Jordan had a quizzical look on his face.

He had just been asked if he considers himself a "mudder."

A what?

Told that it's someone who performs at a high level in inclement conditions, his eyes lit up.

"Oh, absolutely," said the North Medford senior.

He had the drenched, mud-splattered running togs to prove it.

Jordan conjured the necessary will over the final 600 meters to capture his second straight Class 6A cross country championship Saturday at Lane Community College.

The final race of the day at the state meet for all classes was held in the worst of conditions. Intermittent afternoon rain turned into a downpour, and wind kicked up, delighting, perhaps, only the seagulls who settled on the track infield.

Nevertheless, Jordan, convinced he was viewed by most as an underdog, slogged to a time of 16 minutes, 10 seconds over 5,000 meters. He finished strong and defeated runner-up Cullen Wannarka of West Linn by two seconds.

Jordan's effort also boosted the Black Tornado boys to fourth place, only their second trophy here. Teammate David Huddleston placed 12th in 16:33.

Central Catholic won the team championship with 63 points. North Medford scored 121.

South Medford's Ryan Perry also made it to the medals podium with a 10th-place time of 16:30.

In the 6A girls, South Medford came up one place shy of a trophy, placing fifth with 175 points. The Panthers' leader, sophomore Lauren Morgan, barely missed the top 10, placing 11th in 19:17.

Jesuit junior Annamarie Maag won her second straight title in 18:31, and the Crusaders were the winning team with 36 points.

Jordan has run in all kinds of weather, including 100-plus degrees in California.

"The colder, the wetter, the uglier, I just love it," said Jordan, who is being recruited by Oregon, Washington State and Boise State, among others. "Maybe I don't run better in it, but it's definitely more fun. I think it levels the playing field."

Jordan entered the meet with a season-best time that didn't stack up with those by state leaders Ben Demaree of Jesuit and Ian Burgess of Franklin. Yet they were all in a bunch most of the way around the sprawling campus.

At two miles, the lead pack consisted of at least 15 runners.

By the time they came down a final hill to a stretch run of about 1,000 yards, Jordan was in fourth and running out of time.

"Normally, I don't find that last gear until I get on the track," he said.

He didn't have a race strategy other than to keep pace with the leaders until that final straightaway. Burgess was pulling away and Wannarka had just passed him.

"I had to go right then," said Jordan. "I think I had a mental lapse, actually. It was definitely a wake-up call."

His surge was determined. When he hit the track with 300 meters to go, he had a 10-meter lead and no intention of relinquishing it.

"I was fighting to keep him that close," said Wannarka, who wound up giving up ground with 100 meters left.

North Medford coach Piet Voskes doesn't necessarily subscribe to the mudder theory.

"He's a gamer, is what he is," said Voskes. "He loves big opportunities regardless of the conditions. He handles adversity really well, and it was sloppy out there."

Jordan will compete in the Nike regionals next week in Boise, Idaho, hoping to qualify for the national meet.

He'll also soon be taking official recruiting visits to Washington State and Boise State. He's already visited Oregon.

But he'll allow time to savor his final prep cross country race.

"Obviously, I wanted to do it again," Jordan said of repeating. "It's my senior year, it's my last time running on this course. That was all kind of going through my head."

And he wasn't going to let rain stop his victory parade.

Reach sports editor Tim Trower at 776-4479, or e-mail ttrower@mailtribune.com

North Medford's Drew Jordan (980) climbs with the leaders within a mile of the finish on his way to victory in the Class 6A state cross country championships in Eugene.