Crusader boys, girls cross country finishes second at state
In the week leading up to the Class 6A cross country state championship meet, Jesuit boys coach Tom Rothenberger showed his team old footage of the 2002 squad that took the crown based off all six runners putting their best feet forward.
The effort was communal, not based on two or three guys carrying the load. In a head-to-head battle with Grant, it came down to whose sixth man crossed the tape first, which back then was Jesuit. Rothenberger's message to his current crop of Crusaders was simple. It would take a team effort to win the '18 6A state title. The veteran head coach harped on it all week-long and while Jesuit surely got the gist, it was Central Catholic who carried out the scheme.
The Rams, a dark horse going into state, beat Jesuit by the slimmest of margins, tying the Crusaders with 93 total team points, but won the state title by virtue of its sixth runner. Central, a long-time rival of Jesuit, only had one runner in the top-10, but the Rams' sixth runner finished ahead of the Crusaders' for the upset on Nov. 3 at Lane Community College.
"It was high school sports at its best," Rothenberger said. "The cool thing is when things get competitive it means more. It was a tooth-and-nail fight between the two of us. It's a credit to our guys that they did as well as they did. Experience is just that. You can't microwave it. These young boys got a lesson that every guy makes a difference, every place matters. Now they're listening to me. When you face good teams it's going to be close. It's not going to be a gimme. But this will all work to make them better."
Jesuit only had two runners back from last year's state title team that included two high major competitors in Josh Schumacher and Grant Summers. Five of their runners on Nov. 3 had never toed the line at state before. Senior Will Sheaffer, who finished third overall, was the only runner with any state meet experience. But the slim second place has only made the young Crusaders more hungry. Sophomore Jack Bennett (10th place) ran a 15:50 on the LCC course and freshman John Schuler ran a 16:09 for 22nd place overall. Sophomore Ryan Schumacher took 29th and junior Declan O'Scannlain finished 37th. Each Crusader youngster is blessed with ability and they'll all be back next year, starving to make amends and chase after something greater.
"We're excited about doing something extraordinary," Rothenberger said. "It would've been great to have 92 points. But if having 93 and losing on a tiebreaker helps us next year go score 25 points instead of being mediocre and scoring 75, we'll take that. We'll take this lesson and learn from it and aspire to real heights. They'll work their tails off next summer and know next year you have to bring it all on game day."
In a battle of the state's more storied girls programs, Jesuit came up shy against Summit, 39-68. It was the first postseason clash between the two Oregon titans with the Crusaders ruling 6A for years while the Storm won 10 straight 5A titles. Summit beat Jesuit by 60 points when the two teams faced off earlier in the fall at the Ash Creek Festival, but the Crusaders closed the distance over the span of the regular season.
"Finally, people are getting to see the best teams face each other," Rothenberger said. "We wanted to be in the fight. If they're the best team in the region and one of the top-five teams in the country, what a great benchmark. We wanted to see how we matched up with them and closed the gap. Their strength and depth showed, but this meet was much more competitive. All you can do is keep getting better and let the chips fall where they may."
The Crusader girls led Summit halfway through the race, but couldn't maintain the lead down the stretch. Still, Jesuit took a nationally-ranked program down to the wire. The marks Jesuit ran at LCC would've won state a year ago and were actually better than the '17 squad's that took home the blue trophy. What seniors Makenna Schumacher, Libby Rinck, Greta Anderson, junior Alexis Kebbe, sophomore Zoe Quach and freshman Chloe Forester did was start a Jesuit-Summit rivalry that'll span the next several years. Schumacher took second overall at the state meet while Forester finished fifth. From 2001-2010 Jesuit won nine state titles and then had to "re-find" itself, Rothenberger said. Schumacher, Rinck and Anderson were instrumental in helping the Crusaders return to elite status.
"We called it kind of a renaissance," Rothenberger said. "Those seniors kind of led us back to that. They established that belief factor that we belong at that level and that we can get the job done. The younger kids see it. There are outstanding younger runners. We have plenty to build with and have girls who have been waiting in the wings, waiting their turn."
The Sunset boys finished third overall as a team with 124 points. Aloha took 15th with 396 points. Warrior sophomore Leo Torres took 43rd overall with a 16:29 mark. Senior Hiruy Alemseged finished 62nd overall with a 16:48 time. The Apollo girls placed fifth with 159 points and were paced by junior Lucy Huelskamp who took fourth place overall. Junior Jasmine Wang ran a 18:56 to place 25th overall. Aloha came in 11th place as a team with 340 points. Junior Emily Foote ran a 19:29 to place 39th overall. Junior Margot Desmond was the Warriors' second-highest finisher at 81st overall (20:26).