Crusaders get past pesky Sunset at the Class 6A state championship, wins second straight title

TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - Jesuit junior Makenna Schumacher won her first ever state championship and was surrounded by a number of Metro League entrants including Sunset senior Kelly Makin who took second.

Right before the summer began, once track season was over and Jesuit's long-distance crew was able to rest and recover from a long year of cross country and track training, senior Keely McCormick sat down with some of the Crusader upperclassmen for what was essentially a plan of action meeting.

With a Class 6A cross country state championship to defend and another Metro League championship to protect from Sunset's cache of talent, McCormick and company wanted to get a read on head coach Tom Rothenberger's vision for the season ahead.

A week after school got out, Jesuit went on a team trip to Sun River where they solidified a list of goals to mark off one by one as the upcoming season played out. At the top of the list was winning another state title. Two years after taking second against Sunset and reclaiming the crown a year ago, Jesuit had no desire of giving it back to the Apollos. So, in the foothills of the Cascade Mountains along the Eastside of the Deschutes River, the Crusaders' hatched their championship objective. In doing so, the Crusaders' kept their reign alive. On Saturday at Lane Community College, Jesuit scored 47 points, beating archrival Sunset who took second with 85 points, for its second straight 6A championship.

"We've shown the younger generations that Jesuit is still here," Jesuit senior Keely McCormick said. "We had a long winning streak at state and then we kind of dipped down. But we're a super strong team and if we work towards those top goals, we can still achieve them and nothing can stop us. We wanted this, we worked for it and we achieved it."

Sunset senior Kelly Makin placed second overall (17:52) and sophomore Lucy Huelskamp took sixth (18:23). Westview, who took third in Metro, placed 13th overall with 363. Westview sophomore Irene Nagasaka placed 47th overall as the Wildcats' highest finisher. Southridge senior Taylor Chiotti came in ninth place overall (18:28). Without Ember Stratton, the Apollos couldn't summon the needed firepower to get past Jesuit.

"It was the big goal that we've been working for this entire season," Jesuit junior Makenna Schumacher said. "To see it all come true was awesome. We've trained as a team and constantly pushed each other in every workout and run we do. We kept our goals in mind with everything we did."

The only missing piece to what was a stellar 2016 season was an individual state champion. Yet, Schumacher took care of the race's lead with 1,200 meters left and never weakened on her way to first place overall and a 17:45 finish.

"Being the senior leader on this team and being able to watch her all of these years just makes me so happy," McCormick said with a smile. "I'm just so proud of her and I'm just overfilled with joy about it. She's worked so hard for this. She's dedicated to this, this is what she wants, so to see her achieve this is just the most amazing feeling. I love it."

Schumacher said she started to hear heavy breathing coming from the runners behind her when she made her move and chose to keep up her high pace to the finish line. The junior, who won a state championship in the 3,000 as a sophomore, finished fourth overall at the Metro district championship meet a week ago. With the fluid amount of talent and able state contenders at Jesuit, a number of Crusaders had the potential to pop a state winning time. State was Schumacher's turn and she certainly didn't disappoint. Jesuit's penchant of unpredictable promise and peaking in the postseason pressed on. Sophomore Alexis Kebbe finished third overall (17:53) while fellow sophomore Kelsey Gripekoven (18:10) took fifth overall. Jesuit junior Elizabeth Rink took 13th (18:47) and junior Greta Anderson (19:25) placed 30th overall. Junior Hallie DeVore (19:26) took 32nd.

TIMES PHOTO: ADAM WICKHAM - The Jesuit girls cross country team won its second straight Class 6A state championship meet on Saturday.

"Our dedication to our goals was always there," McCormick said. "Throughout the summer and the season that's what our aim was."

In Sunriver, the girls' team all stayed in one house, living under one roof. The excursion isn't necessarily for pleasure and leisure, though. Jesuit trained on the tough terrain with 5A superpower Summit and Crater, running the same trails that once sharpened United States soldiers for World War Two in the summer heat. They even darted up the notoriously steep Smith Rock as a unit. But more the most part, the Sun River voyage is a foundation for team bonding. The Crusaders ate every meal together, went out to the movies in the evening, played games, journeyed to a water park. Jesuit's basis for a state championship, while built on training and talent, could be traced back to Bend, when the Crusaders forged that invaluable team chemistry and strong team dynamic.

"It's an intimate experience to have with a select group of people that you're just getting so close with," McCormick said. "We struggle with things throughout the season and we have our little fights and bicker a little bit. But having that week at the beginning of the summer helps us all come back together. And yeah, some girls might fight and be mad at each other for three days, but you know you're going to get over it because we're all friends beyond running. We come together to run and we have those goals, but we're friends and we know we're there for each other for anything."

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