Wilsonville's Prusse takes the NWO XC preview 5,000 meter race
Wilsonville's Samantha Prusse used to count on others to set the pace in almost every high school cross country race she had ever run.
On Wednesday, it was the Wildcats' sophomore who led the way.
Prusse pulled away from La Salle Prep's Brigid Hanley and Putnam's Kayla Ingraham about 1,500 meters from the finish to win the girls' varsity race at Wednesday's Northwest Oregon cross country preview meet at Blue Lake Park.
"It felt really nice," Prusse said after covering the 5,000-meter course in 19 minutes, 47.97 seconds. "This is my first time winning since I was in middle school, I think."
Hanley finished second in a personal best 19:57.05 and Ingraham was third in 20:05.47, while the Wildcats placed four other runners among the top nine finishers to claim the girls' team title with 28 points to runner-up Sandy's 57.
"We're all surprised by how well we did, because our top nine all finished under 22 minutes, which is a really good way to start the season," Prusse said. "The race was hard, but the first mile was really easy, because we had our whole team together, which really helped."
At the two-mile mark, there was a four-way battle for the lead shaping up with Wilsonville's Kaitlyn Dougall, Hanley, Ingraham and Prusse running within a step or two of one another.
It was an unusual position for Prusse, who last season counted on her older sister, Haley, and teammate Brooklyn Stenstrom to set the pace in most races.
But Haley graduated and Stenstrom is sidelined with an injury, so when the opportunity came to run with the lead Wednesday, Prusse picked her spot.
"I didn't really want to push it and run in front, because I know at any second, anybody could pass me," Prusse said. "So, I stayed on the pace the other girls were running until about the end of the second mile, and then I went to the front and started pushing it.
"I could hear one of the girls (Hanley) behind me, so I kept going faster and faster. And then as we got near the finish, I was like, 'Oh, she's a little behind me. Yeah, finally.'"
In the boys' race, Parkrose senior Hassan Ibrahim shook loose from defending NWOC district champion Nicholas Whitaker about a half-mile from the finish to win by more than 15 seconds in 16:07.03.
Wilsonville put four other runners among the top 16 finishers and won the boys' team title with 46, followed by Parkrose (58), Sandy (65) and La Salle Prep (122).
Tanner Russ contributed to this story