Class 6A cross country — Regular season champion NHS girls are overtaken by Forest Grove, Tigard to miss out on qualifying for the state finals

OREGON CITY — Fresh off an undefeated run through the Pacific Conference dual-meet season, the Newberg girls cross country team could not translate that success to the district championship meet, where the Tigers finished third, failing to qualify for the state championships for the first time in three seasons.

Tigard, whom Newberg had beaten solidly in the final dual meet of the season, stormed to the girl’s title, placing all five of its runners in the top 14 places to finish with 48 points Oct. 24 at Clackamas Community College.

Placing two runners in the top five, Forest Grove totaled 58 points to place second, with Newberg compiling 74.

Debora DeLeon led the Tigers with a seventh place finish in 20:26.71 to qualify for the state championships as an individual. Newberg’s strength this year has been keeping its top three, four and sometimes five runners in a tight pack, but that didn’t happen this time around.

“(Deborah) placed kind of where I thought she would, but normally we have a couple girls within 10 seconds of that,” head coach Bruce Sinkbeil said. “For whatever reason, they weren’t that day.”

Savannah Stanton placed second among Newberg runners in 12th place overall (20:52.86), followed by Rebeca DeLeon in 17th (21:16.10), Grace Hanna in 18th (21:17.20) and Margaret Halstead in 20th (21.17.93). Nicole Fawver was 25th in 21:46.76 and Tori Eichten 43rd in 23:05.38 to round out the effort for the Tigers.

Sophomore Whitney Rich of McMinnville won the district title for the second consecutive year, finishing in 19:31.33 to best runner-up Rubi Vergara-Grindell by 17 seconds.

All five of Newberg’s top five runners were named to the all-Pacific Conference team, with Debora DeLeon making the first team, Stanton earning second-team honors, and the trio of Rebeca DeLeon, Hanna and Halstead being named honorable mention.

Still, after such a strong season, to say the Newberg team, which includes four seniors, was disappointed is a gross understatement, according to Sinkbeil.

“When you commit to something, it’s tougher when you don’t get what you want,” he said.
“They were classy, though. They still got their conference trophy and all that. I told them I thought afterwards they looked a little bit nervous going into it, but I don’t know if that was part of the deal or not. They had the undefeated thing on their back and that’s always tougher.”

Because her religion does not allow her to compete on Saturdays, Debora DeLeon will run the state championship course a day early on Friday, just like she and her twin sister did last year when NHS qualified as a team.

“It takes a lot of discipline to run by yourself,” Sinkbeil said. “If anyone can do it, it’d be her.”

In the boy’s race, senior Harrison Carsh placed 15th overall in 17:14.81 to lead the Tigers to seventh place with 153 points.

Quinton Read was 24th in 17:34.20 to finish as the second-fastest freshman in the conference, with senior Mike Miller not far back in 30th (17:50.47). Also scoring for Newberg were Jared Read in 41st (18:22.14) and Sean Ramos in 43rd (18:30.94).

Senior Dan Harper was 46th in 19:01.14 and sophomore Aerie Baxter placed 48th in 19:07.13.

It was a tough final race for Harper, who had been having an excellent senior season before suffering an Achilles’ injury midseason.

“I don’t think it hurt him a lot, but he just hasn’t been able to race or train for a couple weeks,” Sinkbeil said. “I think mentally that was hard on him. I don’t think he knew how he would react. Once he got into the race, it just wasn’t there. It’s too bad because he really deserved to go out on kind of a high note.”

Led by race winner Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski (15:45.03), Forest Grove won the district title with 51 points, besting runner-up Glencoe by nine points. McMinnville was fourth at 81 and Tualatin fourth with 84.

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