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OC's Max Reed and Christopher Young crack the top 10 as Pioneers punched their ticket to next weekend's state meet

PMG PHOTO: JIM BESEDA - Oregon City's Max Reed (144), Daniel Polanco (143), and Grant Pauli (142) lead the Pioneers off the start of Wednesday's Three Rivers League district meet at Clackamas Community College.Oregon City's Max Reed placed fourth overall and four other Oregon City runners placed among the top 20 finishers, leading the Pioneers to a second-place finish at Wednesday's Three Rivers League cross country championships at Clackamas Community College.

The Pioneers went into the race with an outside shot at winning the district title, but Tualatin dashed those hopes when Andrew Payton and Samuel Roach finished 1-2, respectively, and three other Tualatin runners placed in the top 15 finishers to help the Timberwolves clinch the boys team title with 41 points.

Oregon City's Christopher Young placed eighth and Oregon City's next three runners — Daniel Polanco, Johnny Brito, and Grant Pauli, in that order — finished among the top 18 as the Pioneers edged defending champion West Linn 63-69 for second place.

All three teams will represent the Three Rivers League at Saturday's OSAA Class 6A cross country state championships at Lane Community College in Eugene.

"All our training over the summer boiled down to this one moment right here," said Pauli, one of the four seniors in the Pioneers' varsity lineup. "We finished second, but regardless of the placing, we all worked really, really hard out there, we had a solid, solid group, and everybody out there was racing with passion."

Payton, the Tualatin senior and the defending district champion, ran away from everyone off the start and won by more than 20 seconds in 16:00.4. And that was without anyone pushing him.

The real "race" for was second place, which turned into a three-way battling featuring Reed, Roach, and West Linn's Dash Lipsey.

Reed, the Pioneers' senior, played it conservatively off the start, running slightly off the pace that the lead pack — not Payton, but the group of 12 directly behind the overall race leader — for the first mile of the race.

"Last year, I started out way too fast at the start and I regretted doing that," Reed said. "I wanted to start at a 5:10 pace and I hit that mark exactly, so I was really happy with my first mile."

Reed made up significant ground over the second mile and at one point midway through the final mile he moved ahead of Roach, the Tualatin sophomore, into second place, but couldn't hold the position.

Lipsey, the West Linn senior, and Roach both passed Reed before the final downhill slope and then kicked with everything they had left to the finish, Roach taking second in 16:21.3, Lipsey third in 16:21.8, and Reed fourth in 16:29.3

"The only spot I wanted to hit hard was this back stretch so I wouldn't have to kick very hard, but that didn't work out," Reed said. "I didn't want it to come down to a kick, because I knew those other two probably had better kicks that I had."

Young, the Pioneers' sophomore, covered the 5,000-meter course in 16:49.6, finishing within a second of his personal best, while Polanco was 16th in 17:03.1, Brito was 17th in 17:11.3, and Pauli was 18th in 17:14.4.

"It was probably one of our better performances as a pack," Oregon City coach Brandon Lee said. "Our group ran a really smart first mile and ran really solid in the middle. The leaders went out super-fast and I think there were 10 or 12 guys that went under five minutes in that first mile, which I think came back to haunt some of them.

"I don't know if that was an accident on our part where we got buried at the start or if it was just something that ended up working out for us, but I'm very proud of the boys and how they ran. Our last 1k was strong. We passed a lot of people the second half of the race and it was just an all-around solid effort."

At last year's state meet, Reed placed 76th overall and was the only Oregon City runner to crack the top 100 as the Pioneers finished 20th in the 21-team field with 508 points.

They're looking for a better result this time around.

"Making it to state and racing against was an important thing for these boys," Lee said. "If we can keep that group that tight at the state meet, running that close together, I think we'll far better than we did last year down in Eugene."

In the girls district race, Tualatin's Kaitlyn Gearin won in 18:13.4, finishing with a nine-second cushion over defending champion Fiona Lenth of St. Mary's Academy.

Oregon City freshman Avery Sorensen was the top finisher for the Pioneers, placing 14th overall in 20:09.7.

"Avery finished right about where she was ranked in the league and ran just off her PR," Lee said. "But what's cool about her situation is her personal best (19:51.6) is fast than all the freshmen girls over the recent past, so I see an exciting future for her with some very good things to come."

MT. HOOD CONFERENCE: Sandy's Jeret Gillingham milked his home-course advantage of all it was worth, holding off a strong challenge from Clackamas' Donovan DeWhitt to win the boys individual title at Wednesday's Mt. Hood Conference cross country championships at Sandy High School.

In the boys team race, defending champion Central Catholic placed five runners among the top 15 runners as the Rams edged Clackamas 45-47 for the title. Reynolds finished third with 91 points.

"It's a little disappointing that we didn't manage to get first in the team race," Donovan said. "But, overall, I personally felt really good about my race. I can't same the about my teammates, because I'm not sure how they feel, but getting second overall was better than I could have expected.

"There were so many fast and great runners and I talked to many of them after the race. Everybody agreed it was a super-hard course and everything that everybody got, it's what they earned."

Clackamas' Benjamin Harvey, racing for the first time since sustaining a left knee injury three weeks ago, placed seventh in 16:34, while Maximilian Girardet (ninth, 16:51), Trevor Nielsen (11th, 16:58), and Jacob Harvey (18th, 17:20) rounded out the Cavaliers' top five.

"Having a good positioning like that on a really hard course, it's really making me and some of my peers feel better about going into the state meet," Donovan said.

Donovan came from off the pace and was nipping at Gillingham's heels about 200 meters from the finish.

"I just didn't have anything left in the tank," Donovan said. "I think I'd already given it all to get up to that point. He pulled away and my legs were blowing up as I was trying to get across the finish line without losing any positions.

"I talked to Gillingham after the race and we both agreed that even though it wasn't all of what we wanted — he had bigger aspirations, too, for the course — but we're happy with what we got and we can move on to bigger and better things for the next race."

On the girls side, Reynolds' Kaityln Kruse won in 19:47.21, followed by Central Catholic's Amara Christensen in 19:53 and Clackamas' Olivia Iparraguirre in 20:08.21.

Central Catholic also outscored Clackamas 26-63 for the girls team title, while Barlow finished third with 81 points.

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