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Crater harriers have more to prove

The ability to move on and embrace the next obstacle is a big part of being an athlete, and that’s exactly what’s in store for the Crater boys cross country team, albeit on a bigger and broader scale.

Fresh off a bittersweet showing at the Class 5A cross country state championships, where the Comets claimed the individual champion in Walter Vail but fell short of its overall goal of supplanting Summit as the state’s top program by finishing second to the Storm by four points.

While most school seasons wrap up once the state championships are complete, there’s still more in store for the Crater boys as they train for an even bigger prize they still believe is attainable. The Comets will compete next in the NXR Northwest Regionals at Eagle Island State Park in Boise, Idaho, on Nov. 14.

“This is what we’ve been working for this last year,” Crater head coach Justin Loftus said Monday. “We just have to put it together in the right kind of way, kind of like last Saturday or better.”

Last Saturday at the 5A state meet in Eugene, Vail pulled away from a large pack in a more tactical race and won going away with a time of 15 minutes, 39 seconds. The senior was followed by Summit’s Alex Martin (15:41) and sophomore teammate Andy Monroe (15:42).

Crater threatened to prevent Summit from claiming its fifth straight 5A title as Derek Tripp, another sophomore, placed fifth (15:53), sophomore Erik Olsen was 13th (16:32) and freshman Jantz Tostenson was 14th (16:33).

“We’ve had numerous discussions over the last year about being one of the best teams in the nation,” said Loftus, “but it’s going to take a lot of steps to get there. Saturday was a big step for us and gave us a good idea what our region’s going to look like. Our guys are definitely fired up and they’re fit, so that’s where we want to be.”

North Central High of Spokane, Wash., has won seven of the past eight regional titles and been among the top six in the nation all eight of those years. Crater placed 18th last year out of 19 teams — Summit was second — but Loftus believes his young, small crew has what it takes to climb that leaderboard in quick fashion this time around.

“Our top three guys can be in the mix with anybody so if we can put something together with the next two or three guys then we should be back up there in a good spot,” said Loftus. “There’s a lot of teams at the regional, so it’s going to be saturated. It’s just going to be how our guys perform on our team. We definitely have to shore up the gaps for sure.”

“Our top five guys are one senior, three sophomores and one freshman, so there’s some inexperience there I guess you could say,” added Loftus, “but I wouldn’t even look at these guys and say that because they’re just so mature as far as their race wherewithal and how they get out and push themselves. They’re gamers, but it’s hard coming off a state meet, too. It’s a total different ballgame.

“At the regional, they may go out in a 4:40 mile and it was 5:05 at state in a more tactical race. At state it was who wants it more coming to the end of the race. At the regionals it’s going to be more of a grind, more like a Max King hammer down kind of thing.”

Giving Crater hope is that it will compete at the regionals on the same site in which the team competed on Sept. 26 in the Bob Firman Invitational. There, the Comets finished seventh overall — two spots ahead of North Central — and were just discovering their potential.

Timpanogos High won the Firman meet and is ranked third nationally by Milesplit, while top-ranked Great Oak High was second and fourth-ranked Davis High was third.

“It’ll take three runners in the top 20 and five in the top 40,” Loftus said of contending for a top finish, “but that’s pretty realistic. With the guys that we have right now, competing in this is like the universe for us.”

TRADITION DOCUMENTARY: All those extra video cameras on hand and waivers muddying up the 30th annual Black and Blue Game between North Medford and South Medford’s football teams on Oct. 23 will soon turn toward what hopefully will be a meaningful project as part of U.S. Cellular’s documentary series, “A Season of Tradition.”

The series celebrates rituals and traditions around high school football in communities nationwide. The video will be four to six minutes long and available online at www.aseasonoftradition.com by the end of the month, according to Medford School District spokeswoman Natalie Hurd.

North Medford won the game, 24-14, for its third straight victory at Spiegelberg Stadium to raise its series advantage over South Medford to 17-13. As has been the case for the past few years, the game was also featured as part of the Great American Rivalry Series.

BATTLE OF THE STANDS: Yet another district collaboration with U.S. Cellular — the eight-school “Battle of the Stands” — played out last Friday when South Medford hosted Thurston in the final regular season game at Spiegelberg Stadium. That game was also senior night for the Panthers, who beat Thurston 48-22, to secure third place in the Southwest Conference.

As part of a “Battle of the Stands” promotion by U.S. Cellular, schools across the country are duking it out for the opportunity to win $25,000 by virtue of their “cheering.”

Gauges were used to calculate decibel levels from South Medford’s fan section, band and cheerleaders and there’s a separate opportunity for individuals to log onto www.aseasonoftradition.com, click on the Battle of the Stands link and “add your cheer” by supplying U.S. Cellular with your name, email, city, state and date of birth to add three digital decibels to your school’s total.

South Medford fans are eligible to continue “cheering” online through Thursday, and Hurd said the district has been assured personal information gained by U.S. Cellular will only be used for administration of this promotion and consistent with the sponsor’s privacy policy.

As of press time, South Medford (5,745 decibels and counting) stood in third place well behind John F. Kennedy in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, which scored 16,503.8 decibels. Second place is John T. Hoggard of Wilmington, N.C. (8,562.4 decibels).

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