After moving up to Class 5A in the off season, the Crook County Cowboys show that they are one of the teams to beat in the new-look Intermountain Conference

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Cade Catterson, center, leads Alec Carne and a The Dalles runner as the trio nears the finish line of the Intermountain Conference Preview Meet. Catterson finished second in the race, while Carne was fifth. The Cowboys finished a close second to The Dalles as a team. The Crook County Cowboys ran in a tight pack Saturday at the Intermountain Conference Cross Country Preview Meet here in Prineville, showing once again that running in a pack can bring team success.

The Cowboys, who won last year's Class 4A state championship without putting a single runner in the top 10, stepped up to Class 5A in the off season, but still showed that they are a force to be reckoned with on Saturday as they finished a close second behind The Dalles.

The Dalles placed three runners in the top five in the race, but at first that looked like it might not be enough for the Riverhawks as the Cowboys put four runners in the top nine.

"It was almost a repeat of state," Crook County head coach Tracy Smith said. "That's just what our team does."

Initial scores indicated that the Cowboys had won, but the score had to be adjusted as a Trinity Lutheran runner initially appeared in the scoring and they did not have a full team.

Once the change was made, The Dalles came away with a six-point victory, finishing with 33 points to 39 for the Cowboys.

Hood River Valley finished third with 57 points, while Redmond was fourth with 92, and La Pine was fifth with 154 points.

Ridgeview was also expected to be at the meet, but did not show up.

The race, held on the Barnes Butte trail system, was held on the same course that will host the district meet later this fall.

Smith believes that will be a big advantage for Crook County.

"I think that we do have an advantage because we are going to do a lot of interval training out here," Smith said. "It's one of the better places to run in Prineville, and I'm happy that it is going to be a fast course. I was really sure that it was going to be fast, but I didn't know for sure until somebody ran on it."

The course was fast enough that several Crook County runners ran career best times, even though it is still early in the year.

Cade Catterson, who didn't run in the Cowboys' first race of the season, finished second overall with a time of 17:08, the fastest time of his career.

"It was definitely a tough race," Catterson said. "I felt it, but it felt good for breaking the rust off because I didn't get to run at Breese Ranch (the team's first race)."

Sam Alvarez of The Dalles outkicked Catterson near the finish line, taking first with a time of 17:03. His teammates, Friedrich Steizer and Gabe Lira, placed third and fourth, respectively, with times of 17:10 and 17:12.

Crook County's Alec Carne, who also didn't run in the first race of the year, finished close behind in fifth place with a time of 17:15.

Alec Vail, who was the team's first runner at the opening race, also ran a personal record time, placing seventh overall with a time of 17:24.

Miles Chaney was the next Cowboy in, taking ninth overall with a time of 17:29.

"It's a pretty fast course," Chaney said. "I was a little worried at the start because the whole pack just ran away from us, but we surged at about a mile and a half, and there were four of us at the front in a line. So that was pretty cool."

The final Cowboy to count in the scoring was Hunter Eller, who placed 17th overall with a time of 18:24, also a personal record.

Also running for the Cowboys were Caleb Phay, 29th with a time of 19:10, Elijah Becker, 54th in 20:53, Mason Coffer, 62nd in 21:37, Austin Strong, 72nd in 22:17, Tucker Bonner, 79th in 23:04, and Kaden Ritter, 91st in 29:40.

Not only was he pleased with how the team ran, Catterson said that he believes that having district in Prineville will be a big advantage for the team.

"We will be used to it inside and out," he said. "We will know on the corners if there is a soft spot so we will know to go around it so we don't get bogged down like the other kids who don't know it. And I think that moving up to Class 5A is just an opportunity. I think that we can hold our own with them."

LON AUSTIN/CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Jan Carne, far left, leads a group of runners as they near the finish line of the Intermountain Conference Preview Meet, which was held Saturday in Prineville. Carne finished in ninth place in the race as the Cowgirls took third as a team. Although the Cowgirls did not finish as high in the team scoring as the Cowboys, Smith was still pleased with how well they ran.

"I think we have a solid girls team, I really do," he said. "I know that a couple of the girls told me that they were two minute faster than they were last year at the end of the season, so I think that we are on the right track."

Hood River Valley ran away with the girls race, placing four runners in the top five as they posted a team score of just 18 points.

The Dalles was a distant second with 44, while Crook County was third, 74, and Redmond finished fourth with 94.

Hood River Valley's Francis Dickinson won the race with a time of 20:09. Teammate Brianna Weiseth, who ran the entire race beside Dickinson, was second with a time of 20:15, while Evelyn Nunez, also of Hood River Valley, was third in 20:50.

Junior Jan Carne — who was ineligible to run for the team at the first meet due to a home-school administrative issue but did run in the open category — was the first Cowgirl finisher Saturday, taking ninth overall with a time of 22:00.

Carne was one of several Crook County runners with the same issue, but they are all now eligible.

"It was a lot more fun," Carne said of running with the team. "It's a really great experience to run as part of a team. You have a lot more drive and just to know that it's not just you, that there are all these other people, it just helps keep you motivated."

Carne added that although she would like to have run a little bit faster, she was pleased with how well her teammates ran.

"They were all really close together in a pack like our guys have been, and they are all really encouraging," she said. "I think that our girls team has gotten so much better this year."

Next in for the Cowgirls was McCall Woodward, who placed 15th overall with a time of 22:25. She was followed by Kelcie Ames, 18th in 23:21, Maggie Ramos, 18th in 23:26, and Aubrey Love, 19th in 23:35.

Other Cowgirl runners included Mckinzee Mode, 23rd with a time of 24:06, Gracie Kasberger, 27th in 24:40, Marli McClellan, 30th in 24:54, Hannah Dozhier, 40th in 26:55, Ellé Edgerly, 51st in 29:39, Emily Mize, 52nd in 29:41, and Sammy Thornton, 57th in 37:08.

"I feel like we did pretty good," said Mode, one of just two Cowgirl seniors. "Kelcie, Aubrey and Maggie were right next to each other, and McCall and Jan were way out there, and everyone else was not too far back."

Mode added that she believes that having the district meet on the same course is an advantage for the Cowgirls.

"It's super important," she said. "When you don't know the course, and you think sometimes that it's right there and it ends up being a mile later, that is super demoralizing. And not having to get off a bus will really help. Here, it's you get up, you are here, and you are ready to run."

Carne agreed that having district at home will be an advantage for Crook County.

"I think it will definitely give us an advantage because we will know it inside and out," she said. "It will help us know when to go, when to speed up and that kind of thing."

She added that she doesn't believe that moving up to Class 5A is going to be a problem for Crook County.

"I actually feel pretty good about it," she said. "I expected them to have more people in the top. I think our girls always progress a lot before district, so I think that we will definitely be up there."

Smith agreed.

Although he doesn't expect the Cowgirls to challenge Hood River Valley for the district championship, he believes that Crook County will be in the thick of the race for second place.

"Over the years we have been going into district ranked third or fourth in the district on, and we come through and win the boys, and the girls are third or fourth going in, and we end up getting second at district. I think that the girls will be in the hunt for second, and I don't think that there are any other teams that are better than our boys. I think that we are on target."

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