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Both Culver cross country teams are showing tons of promise in the early season

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Culver runners Audry Rake, left, and Olivia Rydman are two of the strongest runners in the program, despite this being the first time either has run for a high school team.In the world of cross country, true progress can be a difficult thing to quantify. Of course, it's easy to just look at race times and personal bests to make a judgment. Culver cross country coach Carter Spear, on the other hand, has a different number in mind: one percent.

"My approach to helping my runners develop is all about providing experiences that build their confidence that they can run long distance," said Spear. "I ask that they give their best effort by working hard, having fun and getting one percent better every day."

"While 'run faster' seems like the only logical coaching method or approach in cross country," Spear continued, "mixing in fun, positive experiences, such as trail running, hiking, camping trips, team dinners, and playing games for aerobic exercise after workouts can unite a team and unlock individual potential and hard work. I put in a lot of extra time to communicate and plan with parents and athletes to provide these kinds of experiences."

That effort seems to be paying dividends for the Culver team so far this season. Many of the athletes on both the boys and girls teams are showing great development already. After admirable showings at the Culver 2-Mile Time Trial and the Ultimook Race in Tillamook, the Bulldogs most recently ran in the Oktoberfest Invitational at Silver Falls State Park.

Sophomore Olivia Rydman finished the 5K race in 21 minutes and 59 seconds, placing 13th among a field of 87 racers in the girls heat. It is worth noting that only two of the runners ahead of Rydman hailed from the combined 1A/2A/3A classification. Ninth-grader Audry Rake finished in 25:14, good for 57th at Silver Falls. Ariana Jeffery (31:09), Jasmine Dougherty (33:01) and Payton Petersen (33:04) rounded out the Culver girls team.

"Olivia has done an exceptional job in her first high school cross country season for Culver," said Spear. "She trains hard, has natural leadership ability and is humble in her approach. She has quickly risen to be the top sophomore in our district and third fastest sophomore in the state rankings based on time."

"Audry's first cross country season was last year at Culver Middle School," Spear added. "She has done a great job making the jump from the 3K to 5K distance. Watch out for Audry, she will only continue to improve."

ANDY DIECKHOFF/MADRAS PIONEER - Seniors Evan Powell, far right, and Troy Potampa are helping to lead the Culver boys cross country team.On the boys' side, senior Evan Powell continued his strong start to the season by posting a season-best 19:06 at Silver Falls, finishing 33rd out of 124 racers. Fellow Bulldog runners Troy Potampa and Aiden Guest also came in under 20 minutes, crossing the finish line at 19:50 and 19:56, respectively, with Hudson Burgi not far behind at 20:12. Thadius Brown (21:08) and Debren Sanabria (23:55) followed behind them in the varsity race, while Julian Sanabria finished the 3,400-meter race in 17:47.

"Evan and Troy have really pushed the pace this year and are leading by example during practice," said Spear of his seniors. "Troy ran a lifetime PR and Evan was 0.2 off his PR at Silver Falls. They are becoming more confident vocal leaders as well."

The promising season continues for the Bulldogs on Friday, Sept. 24, when Culver travels to Lebanon for the Champs Invite at Cheadle Lake Park.

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