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Both the Crook County High School Cowboys and Cowgirls could be league powers

The Crook County High School cross country team may be one of the programs most positively impacted by the move down to Class 4A.

The Intermountain Conference has become quite possibly the toughest conference in Class 5A with Summit, Bend and Mountain View all dropping to Class 5A this year. The Storm has won the Class 6A girls state championship each year for more than a decade and shows no indication of slowing down.

A year ago, Crook County was third to both Hood River Valley and The Dalles at the conference championships.

With The Dalles also dropping to Class 4A, they are now the team to beat in the Tri-Valley Conference in both the boys and girls competition. However, based on comparative times from a year ago, Crook County should be in the mix for a trip to the state championships.

"I think our varsities have our core," head coach Nate Ditton said recently. "We are solid for both guys and girls. I'm looking at our rosters and I'm seeing kids who are returning with the potential to be unbelievable and some newcomers that will surprise us."

Returning runners Gavin Humphreys, Kernan Teasdale, Jacob McKinnon, Tanner Joyce, Duke Wentzel, Patti Carne and Anne Carne all ran times a year ago that would have been in the top 15 at last year's Tri-Valley Conference Championships. In addition, with more than 30 runners competing on this year's team, Crook County has a number of strong newcomers stepping into the program, including a large contingent of freshmen.

Ditton said that he believes that the team will surprise a lot of people this year.

"I will always think that my team will make it to state, but I think that this year we have a better chance than ever — on both sides," he said. "Crook County cross country is about getting kids outside and active and being together. And, this year we want to be competitive and have fun together."

That doesn't mean that the team does not have a lot of work to do if they hope to accomplish their goals.

"The kids are relearning how to run," he said. "We are out here running in August so we are telling kids you need to hydrate, you need to just do the basics, sleep, eat well, drink lots of water if we are going to run at our best. Those three things seem to get forgotten, so I think what August is all about is getting out those cobwebs and relearning how to run and how to run at our best."

Although Crook County should be competitive in the team competition at district, they are still a young team, with just a handful of seniors on the roster. Two of those seniors, Anne Carne and Anthony Crider, have stepped into leadership positions for the team, and Ditton said that they are doing a great job.

"We are going to hit the ground running," Ditton said. "We want to be ambitious this year."

Crook County opens their season on Saturday, Sept. 10 at the Ash Creek XC Festival, which is sponsored by Western Oregon University and held at the Ash Creek Reserve near Monmouth. The team then hosts the Jere's Cowboy Kickoff at the Crooked River Wetlands Complex on Wednesday, Sept. 14 with races starting at 3:30 p.m. with the girls JV competition and continuing through 4:30 p.m. when the boys varsity competition is scheduled to begin.

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