Schumacher, Jesuit boys cross country crush 6A field
The eight-year drought of Jesuit boys cross country state championships ended befittingly with a flood.
At the Class 6A state championship meet on Saturday at Lane Community College, senior Josh Schumacher and company made it rain on the rest of the loaded field, decimating the event by a 92-point margin with 35 team points compared to Central Catholic's 127.
All seven of Jesuit's runners finished in the top-18 overall including Schumacher who finished fourth (15:48) and was the Crusaders' top placer. Senior Grant Summers (15:56) was just eight seconds behind Schumacher to take fifth overall and junior Will Sheaffer finished a second behind Summers to finish sixth to give Jesuit its first state title since 2008.
"We were ready to show what we had," Schumacher said. "It honestly means the world to us. And to do it in the fashion we did just felt so good. To look back down the chute (at the finish line) and know we had won it and be super excited as soon as the race finish was just an awesome feeling."
Sunset took sixth overall (218) while Aloha took 11th with 281. Sunset junior Ethan Reese ran a 15:59 for ninth overall. Aloha junior Mohamed Sheikh was the Warriors' top finisher at 16:11. Westview senior Nathan Willins ran a 17:41 to finish 77th.
When Schumacher, Augustine, and Summers were in eighth grade, Jesuit didn't make the state meet for the first time in 19 years. The following year, when Schumacher and company were freshmen, the Crusaders took 10th at state.
"That really lit a fire under us," Schumacher said. "We watched videos of the 2008 team and saw how they finished on the (LCC) track, putting five guys in the top-10, and decided that was something we wanted to work towards. There were times you wondered if it was going to happen, but we stayed the course. We trusted each other and worked really, really hard."
Schumacher said the amount of miles and training this Crusader squad deposited both over the summer and during the season was the most he'd seen a squad stow away during his tenure. The captain said 15-20 runners put in 50-60 miles a week during the summer. That toil was reaped in earnest over the past couple weeks as Jesuit mashed the Metro League and state scope.
Schumacher said the Crusaders' approach at the state meet was more conservative than normal. Jesuit's pack stuck together for as long possible, not wanting to run on islands throughout the race, but rather work together for the first two miles.
And for the last mile, the Crusaders went about picking opponents off one-by-one. Schumacher estimated he, Summers and Sheaffer passed four or five foes apiece in the last mile on their way to the finish line.
Senior Jude Augustine took 10th (16:01), senior Max Himmelright was closed behind in 12th place (16:08) with sophomore Shaw Powell (16:11) on his heels in the 14th place. Sophomore Declan O'Scannlain (16:15) rounded out Jesuit's supreme seven at 18th overall. 27 seconds after Schumacher finished, it was official Jesuit was 6A state champions as a team, an unbelievable feat considering most state meets are decided by a few precious points.
"That depth of effort really shows at the end of the year when things start to thin out and injuries and illnesses start to take their toll," Schumacher said. "To know we had the next guy up was amazing."
When the race went final and the last state runner crossed about four minutes after Schumacher closed out his state career, the Crusaders were already celebrating. Four runners in the top-10 nearly equaled the heralded '08 squad. There would be no controversy, no tedious calculations or reviews of photo finishes. Jesuit just siphoned all the suspense right out of the state gala.
"I think it demonstrates the depth of this team," Schumacher said. "We go further back than seven runners, but just to have all of those guys in the top-18 was pretty awesome."
Schumacher — for all his individual success over the last four years, winning two Metro titles, winning a state crown on the track — took great interest in the building of the program and invested himself in improving the Crusaders as a whole. He and head coach Tom Rothenberger were determined to get Jesuit back to its glory days.
"It's always more gratifying to win as a team," Schumacher said. "So many different things have to come together. You have to get a lot of guys to buy into it. To be honest, it's been a long time coming. To pull it off our senior year was total elation and excitement. It was a lot of pride in my teammates and how far they've come and how far we've come as a program and as a team."