The Pioneer's senior started faster than usual and finished second to Madison's Gus Harquail at Wednesday's home meet.

REVIEW/NEWS PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Madison's Gus Harquail (42) surges past Oregon City's Calvin Bryant (88) near the end of the second mile at Wednesday's boys' cross country race at Oregon City High School.Oregon City's Calvin Bryant broke from what had been working for him in recent cross country races and "experimented" with a new strategy Wednesday.

Instead of slow and steady at the start, Bryant went fast and hard early in the race, hoping an early burst of energy in Wednesday's six-team Mt. Hood Conference/Portland Interscholastic League crossover meet might carry him to a new personal record.

And maybe even a win.

The strategy worked great for the first half of the race. But somewhere near the end of the second mile on Oregon City's 5,000-meter home course, Bryant realized his strategy was flawed.

"I probably started too fast," he said.

Madison's Gus Harquail took the lead from Bryant a little over a mile from the finish and pulled away to win the boys' race in 16 minutes, 42.63 seconds, while Bryant settled for second in 16:57.56.

Bryant wasn't thrilled with the time -- he honestly went into the race thinking he would surpass his personal best of 16:46.4 -- but he had no complaints when he looked at the race from a big-picture perspective.

Oregon City's next four runners placed among the top 12 finishers in a field of 42, and the Pioneers scored easy dual wins over the two other Mt. Hood Conference teams in the race, beating Reynolds 21-37, and Centennial 21-40.

And Bryant, a senior in only his second season of cross country, learned a valuable lesson that he thinks could serve him well Wednesday when the Pioneers travel to nearby Clackamas Community College for a Mt. Hood double-dual meet with Clackamas and Gresham.

"Today was more of an experiment to see what happens when I go out fast," Bryant said. "I'm not going to start that fast in other races, but I wanted to see what I could do and … now I know not to go that fast at the start."

Bryant led Harquail by about six seconds at the end of the first mile, while Reynolds' John Stewart was another 10 seconds back with a pack that included Oregon City's Cade Hole and Centennial's Jason DeLeon.

As the leaders made their way up the slope near the end of the second mile, Harquail surged past Bryant and got some separation before starting the final one-mile loop.

"I was trying my hardest to stay with him, but I went out too hard and I didn't have any more go in me," Bryant said. "I tried to stay up with him as much as possible, but I started petering out a little bit."

Bryant, who attends the Clackamas Academy of Industrial Sciences charter school at Oregon City High School's Jackson Campus, played several youth sports, including soccer, basketball, baseball, and track and field.

He took a break from sports to play in the high school band as a freshman, but jumped back into sports his sophomore year when he joined the Pioneers' track program as a distance runner.,and then picked up cross country as a junior.

"I was like, 'I'm a runner, so I should probably try this out,'" he said. "I figured it would help with my conditioning for track."

Bryant has made tremendous strides over the past year, posting times that are more than a minute faster than the times he ran on the same courses a year ago.

"Calvin had a great off-season, running 50-60 miles a wek, and now he's a couple minute faster than he was last year," Pioneers coach Brandon Lee said. "We would have liked to have had him for all four years, but we'll take the two we had.

"He said he felt pretty weary on that third mile in today's race, but he went out fast, so that was expected. I think the next three or four weeks, as his conditioning comes on even more, he'll be able to nail down that third mile and run a full 5k race."

Central Catholic's Cameron Thompson (15:27.5) and Ben Brown (16:10.1) own the two fastest times of the season among Mt. Hood Conference runners. Then there are six runners -- in order, Central Catholic's Jameson Westhead and Spencer Hardy, Clackamas' Benjamin Harvey, Oregon City's Bryant, Barlow's Tristan Taylor, and David Douglas' Josh Scheetz -- who have all eclipsed 17 minutes, and whose best times are all within 28 seconds of one another.

Bryant, who ran a personal best 16:47.4 at the Sept. 22 Meriwether National Cross Country Classic in Hillsboro, has his sights set on a time of 16:30 or better between now and the Oct. 25 district championships at Centennial.

"If I get that, then I'll set goals that are even lower," Bryant said. "I realy like where I'm at, but there's always room for improvement. Right now, for where I'm at, I know I can keep working toward faster times."

Defending champion Central Catholic is a virtual lock for another Mt. Hood Conference boys' district team title, while a four-way race is shaping up with Barlow, Clackamas, Oregon City and Reynolds for the league's No. 2 berth Nov. 4 OSAA cross country state championships in Eugene.

Cade Hole, Anthony Lopez, Joseph Jannsen and Jonathan Schaffer rounded out Oregon City's top five on Wednesday, with Hole finishing fourth in a personal best 17:14.13, Lopez seventh in 17:29.48, Jannsen 11th in a personal best 17:43.24, and Schaffer 12th in 17:45.19.

"We were dealing with some illness last week, so this was a good, see-where-we're-at meet," Lee said. "We're coming on and running stronger out front with the boys. Cade and Anthony ran well, and as a pack, Joseph and Jonathan were up there closer and ran season bests, so we're heading in the right direction."

In the girls' race, Reynolds' Katilyn Kruse won in a personal best 19:18.5, and Oregon City's Kaari Guelsdorf was second in 20:07.49 to lead a 2-3-4-5-9 finish by the Pioneers.

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