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Phoenix girls race to first state title

Phoenix High added a few new chapters in its long history of cross country achievements to highlight a host of standout efforts by Southern Oregon runners at the state championships on Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Led by a pair of top-five finishes from Danielle Jantzer and Nevina De Luca, the Phoenix girls team secured its first state title in the Class 4A meet. The Pirate boys finished runner-up to Valley Catholic to cap a solid afternoon for Phoenix.

“It was a great day,” said Phoenix head coach John Cornet. “They all just went out and ran really well.”

Podium finishes seemed to be the norm on this day for the local participants.

Crater’s boys team took second in the Class 5A meet, the St. Mary’s girls team placed second by one point after a runner-up showing from Marissa Dobry in the Class 3A/2A/1A meet and Cascade Christian’s Tim McPherson finished second among the boys in the 3A/2A/1A meet.

In the case of Phoenix, however, history making performances were the story of the day. Jantzer’s second place marked the best finish for a Pirate girl in state history and, while it was the fifth time the Phoenix boys have been runners-up, their overall score of 95 was the second-best showing in school history.

“Our boys are all in good company with the other second-place teams they’re now joining,” said Cornet, noting the 2008 team still leads with 73 points but the next-best outing until Saturday had been 102 points in 1995.

Elliott Jantzer was a fixture on that 2008 team, capturing his second straight state title before moving on to the University of Oregon, but it was his little sister who was a shining star this time around. Danielle Jantzer and Henley’s Lexi Healy pulled away from the pack to set up a showdown that wasn’t decided until Healy broke away with 500 meters left on the 5,000-meter course. Healy won in 18 minutes, 58 seconds while Jantzer, who placed eighth a year ago, came in at 19:04.

“I thought her effort was incredible,” said Cornet. “She’s running against the best in the state and she’s only a sophomore. She had the courage to be with the lead pack and wherewithal to go out and set the pace for a little bit and then the strategy to try and fuel her surges.”

“Sometimes runners can do everything right and just be outrun and you’ve got to give credit to those who beat you,” he added. “Danielle needs to hold her head up high because she did everything right.”

Jantzer’s senior teammate De Luca, who had the school’s previous high with a fourth-place run two years ago, finished fifth in 19:18. With junior Emma Amundsen (15th, 20:06), sophomore Shayla Potratz (16th, 20:08) and senior Ashlee Vos (31st, 21:09) rounding out the scoring, Phoenix finished with 57 points to distance itself from defending champion Molalla (106) and Siuslaw (112).

On the boys side, senior Randy Mena placed seventh in 16:29 but the Pirates faced a tall task in trying to push past Valley Catholic, which had won two of the last three titles at the 3A/2A/1A level and breezed to its first 4A crown with 58 points.

“He ran equal to a lifetime best,” Cornet said of Mena, who hit the final 300 meters in fourth place, “but you can only hold off so many people for so long. All of our boys went out and ran really smart races.”

The most gut-wrenching moment went to the St. Mary’s girls team and Dobry, who had dominated the 3A/2A/1A landscape all season but just didn’t have her legs completely under her on Saturday. Dobry had coasted to a 23-second win over Bandon freshman Sailor Hutton in the District 6 championships but couldn’t fend Hutton off again, with the Bandon runner surging to a win in 18:36 to Dobry’s 19:09.

“She wanted to get out and try and get things done early like she did at the district,” said St. Mary’s head coach Joe Volk. “She didn’t want it to come down to a sprint finish after running on the soft stuff, but it just didn’t work out.”

Dobry, a junior, took off on her own for the opening 3 kilometers before Hutton pulled aside and then ultimately stretched out an impenetrable gap.

“She said afterward after the first hill her legs just felt flat,” said Volk. “She’s a hard trainer and a hard worker and I think perhaps she was a little fatigued because going out that hard can take a little bit of zip out of your legs. She may have just extended herself a little too much too early and didn’t have the zip in her at the end, but she still ran a really good race.”

Meg Vasey (18th, 20:53), Rachel Bennion (20:54), Gianna Isola (22nd, 21:09) and Maddy Schwartz (25th, 21:19) also had top-25 races for St. Mary’s.

Union/Cove was able to squeak past the Crusaders for its fourth straight state title — the first time that’s happened at the 3A/2A/1A level — after Stormy Bullard finished seventh (19:59) and the team’s next three finishers took up spots 11-13.

“Union just had a really tough performance,” said Volk. “Their 2-3-4 girls just ran amazing races.”

Umatilla junior Fabian Cardenas lived up to his billing as the favorite in the 3A/2A/1A boys race with a top time of 16:02, but McPherson wasn’t too off the pace for Cascade Christian. The Challengers senior finished second in 16:30, while Rogue River’s Rio Lopez was 21st (17:21) and St. Mary’s freshman Evan Koenigsman paced his team (41st, 18:12).

Crater had little chance catching up with the Summit boys, who rolled to their fourth straight 5A title with a blistering 19-point effort behind five runners in the top seven. Summit’s Matthew Maton broke Galen Rupp’s 11-year-old state record by 10 seconds to win the title in 14:45.

Summit’s girls team won its seventh straight 5A title with 26 points.

For the Comets, who scored 61 points, junior Walter Vail finished eighth in 15:58 and senior Devin Rodman 10th in 16:11 to pave the way for a runner-up trophy. Andy Monroe (14th, 16:18), Derek Tripp (15th, 16:18) and Nathan Edwards (19th, 16:23) also had top-20 outings.

Crater’s girls team placed 10th behind a sixth-place effort by junior Jordan Monroe (18:38).

In other highlights, Ashland’s Raymond Impara finished 51st in 17:10 in 5A boys while Eagle Point’s Ariana Marks was 27th in 20:21 and Christine Impara 36th in 20:37 in 5A girls.

In the 6A races, South Medford senior Cody Larson finished 46th in 16:50 while North Medford senior Conner Covey wasn’t far behind in 50th at 16:53 to pace the local boys, while South Medford senior Lela Stemple finished 53rd in 20:17. The Panther boys finished 13th and the girls 17th.

Reach reporter Kris Henry at 541-776-4488, khenry@mailtribune.com, www.facebook.com/krishenryMT or www.twitter.com/Kris_Henry

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