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The Pioneers ran hard enough to win their dual with Tigard, but backed off from getting into a race with Lakeridge, Tualatin for top team honors

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City cross country runners (red jerseys, left to right) Jonathan Schaffer, Max Reed, Daniel Polanco, Johnny Brito, and Grant Pauli ran as a pack through the first two and one-quarter miles of Wednesdays Three Rivers League preview meet at Clackamas Community College.Oregon City High School's boys cross country team showed up at Clackamas Community College on Wednesday for the Three Rivers League preview meet ready to run.

Not race, just run.

Wednesday's meet was the first opportunity for an Oregon City team that is expected to make a serious run at a district championship to make a statement against the league's other top contenders — Lakeridge, Tualatin, and defending champion West Linn.

But the Pioneers lined up at the start, they decided to dial down their effort a notch or two, leaving Lakeridge and Tualatin to wage a two-team battle for the league's early-season bragging rights.

Tualatin's Andrew Payton led the field over the 5,000-meter course in a winning time of 16 minutes, 36.96 seconds, while Lakeridge placed five runners among the top 16 finishers and defeated Tualatin 46-57 for the team title.

Oregon City's Grant Pauli and Max Reed finished sixth and seventh, respectively, and Oregon City placed three other runners in the top 22 to help the Pioneers edge West Linn 72-78 for third place.

In addition to the preview meet, the Pioneers also broke out their head-to-head battle with Tigard — an overwhelming 18-47 win for Oregon City — and counted that as the first league dual of the season.

Oregon City coach Brandon Lee said one reason the Pioneers held back from all-out racing on Wednesday was that they had their own invitational scheduled on Saturday and they wanted to save their best efforts for that race.

"I know some of the other coaches don't like us doing it that way, but it's early in the season and we've got objectives for later," Lee said. "Our boys did what they were supposed to do today."

The plan was for the Pioneers to run as a pack with Pauli and Reed trying to pull the next five runners — Daniel Polanco, Johnny Brito, Jonathan Schaffer, Christopher Lane, and Christopher Young, in that order — around the course in 17-minute pace.

They slowed down over the second mile and fell off the desired pace. Pauli and Reed broke off from the group about three-quarters of a mile from the finish and looked strong at the end, Pauli finishing in 17:13.60 and Reed in 17:15.74.

The next five Oregon City runners crossed the finish line within 23 seconds of one another, with Polanco posting a personal best 17:33.24, taking more than 17 seconds off his previous PR.

"We were scoring against Tigard head-to-head and we wanted to take care of that battle first," Lee said. "After that, the objective was to bring the group through as close to 17-flat pace as possible and to break off if they had to make any kind of moves against Tigard.

"That was kind of the game plan — to just pace through the first two and a quarter miles and then we're going to let loose on Saturday."

Why not change it up and race hard in Wednesday's preview meet and run a pace race in Saturday's invitational?

"Well, it's our home meet and we've got a lot of spectators and families that are going to be there," Lee said. "I think we will put on a decent showing today and got done what we needed to do at the same time."

In the girls race, Tualatin's Kaitlyn Gearin won in 19:04.04 and Tualatin had four other runners place among the top 16 finishers, lifting the Timberwolves to a 52-58 victory over West Linn in the team race.

Oregon City's Avery Sorensen was the Pioneers' top running, placing 13th overall and second among freshmen runners in 21:06.56.

OREGON CITY XC INVITATIONAL: Parkrose's Ahmed Ibrahim won the boys race at Saturday's Oregon City XC Invitational in a personal best 15:10.08, breaking the previous course record of 15:13.25 set by Summit's Alex Martin in 2015.

Franklin's Charlie Robertson, Charlie North, and Aidan Palmer grabbed the next three spots behind Ibrahim, while Milwaukie freshman Logan Law finished fifth in 16:10.65.

Oregon City's Max Reed was the Pioneers' top running, placing seventh in a personal best 16:17.33, and Grant Pauli also set a new PR, finishing 15th in 16:48.67.

Franklin outscored Westview 30-80 for the boys team title, with Oregon City (82), The Dalles (96), and Parkrose (143) rounding out the top five.

In the girls race, Franklin's Autumn Ost and Kaiya Robertson finish 1-2, respectively, leading the Lightning to a 46-114 win over Hermiston for top team honors.

NORTHWEST CLASSIC: Ashland's Reed Paylor and Arlo Davis finished 1-2, respectively, to lead the 6A/5A boys field at Saturday's Northwest Classic cross country invitational at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Paylor led a field of 224 runners over the 5,000-meter course in 15:18.80, followed by Davis (15:34.50) and South Eugene's Nate Tavakolian (15:43.90).

Clackamas senior Benjamin Harvey finished 13th overall in a personal best 16:15.2, taking more than seven seconds off his previous PR set at last year's Mt. Hood Conference championships at Centennial High School.

Donovan DeWhitt and Maximilian Girardet of Clackamas also posted personal bests, with DeWhitt placing 21 st in 16:28.7 and Girardet finishing 39th in 16:45.20.

Summit edged South Eugene 119-123 for the boys team title, while Ashland was third with 127. Clackamas posted a score of 183 to place sixth in the 34-team field.

Summit's Fiona Max, the defending 6A girls state champion, won the 6A/5 girls race in a personal best 17:14:13, finishing more than 42 seconds ahead of runner-up Madison Elmore of South Eugene.

Summit had four other runners among the top eight finishers as the Storm of Bend posted a winning team score of 24, followed by South Eugene (53), North Salem (105), and Grant (196).

Clackamas' Olivia Iparraguirre placed 41st in 20:20.3, Putnam's Noemi Lundgren was 60th in 21:02.50, and La Salle Prep's Erin McGinnis finished 69th in 21:17.80 to lead runners from the three local high schools competing in the 6A/5A varsity race.

By Jim Beseda
Sports editor
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