Cowboys finish fourth in season opening meet, with just four runners competing Cowgirls don't figure in team scoring

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Alex Vail leads Mountain View's Jayden Harris through Ochoco Creek early in the Jere Breese Memorial Ranch Stampede. Vail, a sophomore, went on to finish fifth in the race with a time of 19:21. The Jere Breese Memorial Ranch Stampede is probably the hardest cross country race of the year.

The annual event, which is held on the Breese Ranch just east of Prineville, features two creek crossings, nearly half a mile through a flooded field, and a climb from the valley floor to the top of the rim and back, all in 5,000-meters.

"It was a tough challenge, but at the same time, it was really fun because you get to run through water," Crook County freshman McCall Woodward said following the race. "It was just a really fun course to run."

Running in the first race of her young high school career, Woodward was the second Cowgirl to finish the course, taking 24th overall with a time of 27:09.

With just four athletes running on the day, the Cowgirls did not figure in the team scoring at the event. Still, head coach Tracy Smith was pleased with how they ran.

"The race went really well," Smith said. "I think our girls could be close to as strong as our boys."

That is a bold statement, as the Cowboys won the Class 4A state championship last season.

The Cowboys weren't at full strength for Saturday's race either, but still managed to finish fourth in the team scoring, finishing just one point behind third-place Redmond.

Class 6A powerhouse Summit won both the boys and girls team titles, scoring just 17 points in the boys meet and 20 in the girls.

Mountain View was second in both races, scoring 60 points in the boys race and 51 in the girls, while Redmond was third with 98 and 75 points, respectively.

The Cowboys finished with 99 points, while Ridgeview was fifth with 124, La Pine sixth, 138, and Madras seventh, 195.

Ridgeview was fourth in the girls meet with 103 points, while Crook County, La Pine and Madras all failed to field complete teams.

Sophomore Alex Vail was the highest-finishing Cowboy in the meet, placing fifth with a time of 19:21.

Vail, who was an alternate on last year's state championship team, was pleased with his performance.

"It feels like I'm not going to be an alternate this time," he said. "Practices have been good, and I think we are going to be good. I just hope for maybe third at state."

Placing third at state would be quite an accomplishment for the Cowboys.

Not only have they moved up to Class 5A this year, but they also lost two of their expected varsity performers to other activities.

Zach Mauras has switched to football, while Noah Chaney has decided to concentrate on the decathlon and skip cross country.

On top of that, several members of the team are currently ineligible, although Smith expects that to be resolved in the near future.

"We didn't have a big turnout today because the kids that are home schooled and the Christian school kids, there is a problem with transferring units, and we've got to get that figured out," Smith said. "Hopefully we will have them for the IMC preview (Saturday, Sept. 8, also in Prineville)."

Close behind Vail on Saturday was Miles Chaney, who finished 10th overall with a time of 19:57.

Rounding out the scoring for the Cowboys were Hunter Eller, 17th in 20:43, Elijah Becker, 37th in a time of 21:41, and Jason Slawter, 60th in 23:18.

"Things went way better than last year," Eller said. "I'm not injured, and I will actually have a season this year. It's a huge change."

Eller did run in a couple races last year but was forced to spend all of his training time on his own in a swimming pool.

Like Vail, the senior is hoping the Cowboys can LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - McCall Woodward runs around a pile of water buffalo bones with just over a mile to go in Saturday's Jere Breese Memorial Ranch Stampede. Woodward, a freshman, had a sizeable lead on the runners behind her and finished 24th overall in the race with a time of at state this year, despite the school moving up a classification.

"I think it makes a difference, but we are a strong team, and we are not afraid of competition. It motivates this team, and I hope to get a state trophy again."

Also running for the Cowboys was Kaden Ritter, who finished 106th overall with a time of 29:22.

Summit's Zachry Weber was the first runner to cross the finish line with a time of 18:01. He was followed by teammates Joseph Sortor, 18:23, Sam Hatfield, 18:57, and Will Lange, 19:17, while Vail was the first non-Summit runner to reach the finish line.

Kelcie Ames led the Cowgirl efforts, placing 18th overall with a time of 26:08.

Smith was especially pleased with how well Ames ran.

"She ran two minutes faster than last year on a slower course, because we didn't have the field flooded last year," Smith said. "I'm really pleased."

Next in for the Cowgirls was Woodward. She was followed closely by fellow freshman Elise Rice, who finished 28th overall with a time of 27:42.

The final Cowgirl to compete was Gracie Kasberger, who finished 30th with a time of 28:03.

Ames was pleased with how well the team performed.

"It's been tough training with the smoke," she said. "But I feel like the four of us did really good. The four of us ran super strong, and we have a bond this year that we didn't have in the past, so it makes it easy to work together during runs and push each other."

Ames added that she isn't concerned that the team is moving up to Class 5A.

"I think it's an opportunity, because we have run against most of the schools before, and we know that we can compete," she said.

Jan Carne, who led the team last year, is one of the Crook County team members who is currently ineligible. She competed in the open race, following the conclusion of the high school meet, using the event for a training run.

Carne finished ninth overall in the open race, competing against both men and women with a time of 24:50.

For the fourth consecutive year, Kelsey Swenson of Mountain View won the girls race, running away from the field with a time of 19:50. Summit took the next eight places as Kelsey Gripekoven took second, 20:22, Azza Borovicka Swanson third in 21:10, Teaghan Knox fourth, 21:21, Jasper Fievet fifth, 21:45, Stella Skovborg sixth, 21:53, while Ellie Skjersaa and Ashley Boond tied for seventh in 22:33.

Mountain View coach Jared Bassett won the men's open race with a time of 17:28, while former Crook County runner Emmett Bailor was fourth in 21:40, and CCHS assistant coach Chuck Coats was fifth in 22:05.

Ainslie Knox was the women's winner, finishing sixth overall with a time of 22:45.

There was also a kids 2K race on Saturday with T Flack winning and Victoria Layden finishing second. No times were available for the kids race.

Although Crook County wasn't at full strength for the first meet of the year, Smith is confident that the team will be strong by the end of the season.

"We've had kids running since June 19, consistently for three days a week," he said. "Then camp was well attended with 21 kids. Everybody is running well, and we are looking strong. We've got really good attitudes. Everybody is working hard, and nobody's really slacking at all."

The Intermountain Conference Preview Meet will be held Saturday, Sept. 8 starting at the Barnes Butte trails parking lot beginning at 10 a.m.

There will be a community race immediately prior to the varsity girls race, with registration starting at 8 a.m. and the race at 9 a.m.

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