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Apollo senior Ethan Reese wins Metro, state title in the same season for Sunset

TIMES FILE PHOTO - Sunset senior Ethan Reese won his first Class 6A state cross country championship last weekend.

The layout of the Class 6A cross country state championship course was right up Sunset senior Ethan Reese's alley.

There were dirt paths, uphill climbs, grassy knolls and even a trip around the pond at Lane Community College. But the kicker for Reese was the finale. With the finish line stationed on LCC's blue and white oval, Reese knew if he could keep the state meet close, his track speed would give himself a shot at a state title. It almost seemed like this state championship was meant to be for Reese.

The race itself ended up being more about guts than glory with the field giving the Sunset star all he could handle. But Reese was built for labor. His pain tolerance and cardiovascular base are unearthly. And so, with 250 meters to go, trailing two runners, Reese sprinted from the back of a pack to the front of the race and held on against Franklin's Aidan Palmer by a second to secure the 6A state title with a 15:37 mark.

"I know closing on the track plays to my strength, but I was very still surprised by the result," Reese said. "I was surprised I still had a lot left at the end. I thought the race would've taken a lot more out of me. It took quite a bit out of me, but I had just enough at the end. I always feel relieved at the end of the race. I got through it and that's always the greatest feeling."

With 800 meters to go, Reese said he trailed the race leader by eight seconds and was two seconds back from second place. But he kept closing the distance between himself and the top of the field and hit the LCC track with the lead. Other racers such as Palmer moved in on Reese toward the finish line, but the Apollo fended them off for first place.

"As soon as I get on a track, I know I can go faster," Reese said. "I knew I had to give everything I had. I could hear my teammates down the home stretch, yelling my name, and that gave me the last batch of motivation over the last 50 meters."

The cross country state meet in general can get chaotic. With each classification running the same course at different times throughout the day, many schools elect to hang around the course and watch the races. Programs that don't make state still send teams down to Eugene to soak up the experience. There are masses and masses of people on campus. But the spectators, specifically most of Sunset's young runners watching and cheering on Reese, propelled the Apollo senior.

In fact, Sunset's team as a whole had a hand in Reese's cross country breakthrough. A year ago there was a huge gap between Reese and the rest of the Apollo pack, which made training more difficult for Sunset's fastest runner. But as the Apollos improved as a whole and kept up with Reese, they gave him the needed push during those long 70-mile-a-week sessions through Forest Park, around the Nike campus and the Cedar Mill area over the summer.

Sunset finished third overall as a team with 124 points. Junior Mason Gerwig placed 23rd overall while senior Mihira Sogal took 27th overall. Sophomore Collin Beyer ran a 16:16 and took 34th.

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