Jesuit, Sunset, Aloha in the race for Metro supremacy
The final month of the Metro League boys cross country season last year was a real fight to the finish.
Sunset and Jesuit, the Metro's annually elite programs, split the regular season and district championship titles. At the Class 6A state championship meet the Apollos took the rubber match, placing second just above the Crusaders, who finished third. And while Aloha relished another great season, placing 14th at state and making it to the state gala once again, it was clear Jesuit and Sunset were a cut above.
This fall, however, parity has a played a huge role in Metro.
Jesuit is again the team to beat. The Crusaders sport the fastest individual in Josh Schumacher, who when healthy is a 6A state title contender. Schumacher has only run in one race this season, but it was a doozy, taking first overall at the 11th annual Nike Twilight Cross Country Invitational. The Crusaders, in turn, won the meet as a team, beating some of the best schools from up and down the West Coast.
But behind Jesuit sits a foursome of formidable foes. The Apollos, despite losing five of their top seven seniors off the 2016 team, are still a force with Ethan Reese leading the pack. Aloha beat Sunset and Westview at its home three-way meet a few weeks ago and has its sights set on second place in Metro.
The Wildcats sport two seniors in Nathan Willins and Keizo Morgan who can either win a race on their own or at least place within the Metro's top-five individuals at the district meet. Willins missed the Aloha-Sunset-Westview meet due to illness but has bounced back resoundingly since.
At last count, Jesuit is 5-0 in Metro with Aloha (4-1) holding the tiebreaker over Sunset. Southridge and Westview aren't far behind, either.
The last few weeks of the season or so should indeed be thrilling. Jesuit takes on Sunset at Tualatin Hills Parks and Recreation on Oct. 11 and Westview on Oct. 18. The Metro League Championship meet is Wednesday, Oct. 25 at THRPD.
"Jesuit will be really good and the next two spots will be up for grabs between Sunset, Aloha, Westview, and Southridge," Southridge head coach Michael Christiansen said.
"Jesuit and Sunset have strength but also the depth for first and second at districts," Westview head coach Rebecca Martin said.
"The Jesuit boys return a lot of strong runners and I think they look to be the favorites," Aloha head coach Ken Martinez said. "Sunset has depth in their JV teams to be up there too. Westview and Southridge boys also return a lot of runners to make it interesting for the third spot."
Following are updates for the Beaverton-area Metro League boys cross country teams for the 2017 season.
For the first time since 2013, when Devin Sellers and Bae and Jay Garmondeh were leading the Warriors to a Metro title, the Warriors are in strong position to finish higher than third in the district.
Junior Mohamed Sheikh and seniors Ian Bake and Matt Uzzle, as well as juniors Brady Gibbons and Hiruy Alemseged, have gotten off to a great start this season, beating Sunset and Westview head-to-head.
"I think our boys can be a top-three team," Martinez said. "We have more work ahead of us and we need to add to our depth. Our boys had a strong track season and we hope it pays off for cross country. Ian and Matt had a strong finish to cross country by making second team all-Metro, and Mohamed had a great track season. Hiruy improved a lot last spring and will be a big help."
The Beavers are battling tooth-and-nail to prove they belong in the state meet conversation.
Seniors Conner Graziano and Tre Hamilton have run strong and tough at the top of Beaverton's lineup so far this season. The duo took fourth and fifth place, respectively, against Westview two weeks ago. Freshman Kai Decarli, juniors Jordan Schickedan and Hunter Drangstveit and senior Henry Corl have also popped up on the varsity radar.
"There hasn't been a race where I felt like I did poorly yet," Graziano said. "In practice, we try to take it seriously and not take it easy. I know Jesuit and Sunset have pretty good teams. It's a pretty hard league overall. We're running against some of the best teams in the country, so it's pretty cool to run against that type of competition."
Undefeated and untouched to this point in the Metro campaign, the Crusaders could feasibly go wire-to-wire as the district's champion both in the regular season and at the district meet.
Schumacher is a superstar who doesn't compete in many of the Metro dual meets in order to save his legs for the competitions that have more postseason weight. It's a routine the wiry senior has stuck to both in cross country and on the track in the spring as his body continues to develop and the inevitable shin splints and growing pangs pester his limbs.
Still, Schumacher is normally able to train on his own. And when the lights come on, he's a ferocious competitor who is a past district champion.
At the NTCCI, Schumacher was joined by fellow senior Grant Summers, who took fifth overall and sophomore Shaw Powell, who placed 16th. Senior Max Himmelright, sophomore Declan O'Scannlain, and senior Jude Augustine all placed in the meet's top 35 overall. Augustine was second-team all-Metro last year, as was junior Will Sheaffer. Schumacher, Sheaffer, Summers, and Powell have the top-four times in Metro. And of the top 10 times in the district as a whole, Jesuit holds eight of those.
When it's all said and done, the Skyhawks expect to be heard from come districts.
Seniors Aaron Sorenson and Austin Kreiter juniors Elliot Drew, Nicholas LaPlante and sophomores Reid Quiggins and Devin Herbers make up a Southridge team that isn't hurting when it comes to numbers.
Drew ran a personal best 16:32 against Sunset and placed third overall. His personal record is currently the 16th-best time in Metro. LaPlante and Sorenson also ran personal bests against the Apollos.
"The depth on this team is the best we have had at Southridge," Christiansen said. "The boys' team had a great summer and will be in the hunt for one of the state spots. We have a solid group returning from last years district team with Elliot, Aaron, Nichols, and Austin. We have a bunch looking to join them with Reid, Devin, Jonathan Hill, Josh Meidl, and Alex Hancock."
Reese can run with the best in the district, and his young running mates can provide the proper support around him.
The junior ran a 15:53 against Southridge and Glencoe last week and currently has the fifth-fastest time in Metro. Sheaffer, Summers, and Powell are just five-to-10 seconds ahead of Reese in the top-10 individual standings. Sophomore Mason Gerwig broke out versus the Skyhawks and Crimson Tide, running a personal best 16:29 that has him 14th overall and just one second behind Willins. Junior Mihira Sogal and sophomores Carson and David Cummins have helped the Apollos refill the ranks.
Willins and Morgan give the Wildcats a chance at victory each time Westview toes the starting line together.
And even when Willins was down for two weeks, the Wildcats still competed hard. Just points away from the state meet last year, Willins, Morgan and company want to punch their state ticket.
A large pack of Wildcats that included Leon Farhaj, Max Lin, Zack Patton, Samuel Janasik, Justin Ha, David Grasper and Brandon Christensen finished sixth-through-12th against Beaverton. Westview beat Liberty 25-53 and the Beavers 24-63.
"The boys' cross country team has a good chance to qualify for state this year," Martin said. "Nathan Willins is extremely strong, both mentally and physically. He has proven himself in both cross country and the track. The coaching staff expects Nathan to be our strongest runner this season. Keizo Morgan had his first cross country season last year. He is a 400/800m track runner. His base is built up this season and the coaching staff is looking to Keizo to use his speed in races. We expect a strong performance this year from the boys' team.