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Pep talk from Culver's legendary wrestling coach helped motivate the team to set PRs

PMG PHOTO: LON AUSTIN - Evan Powell, front, and Aiden Guest were just two of the many Culver runners to set PRs at the Oxford Classic.Just in case the infectious energy of Culver's cross country coach wasn't enough, Carter Spear decided to call in some backup before his teams raced in the Oxford Classic 5K in Bend.

"I invited Culver wresting coach JD Alley to come speak to the team this week about adopting a championship mindset," Spear said. Alley has been at the heart of a Bulldog wrestling program that has won 20 consecutive district titles and 12 of the last 14 state championships. If anyone knows about a championship mindset, it's him.

"He had some great stories and practical advice that the kids took to heart," said Spear. "I'm pretty sure that motivated them to work at improving this week leading up to race day."

For good measure, Spear shared his own sentiments with the Bulldogs.

"My message to the team this week was to sacrifice, step up and be leaders, and to 'just do it!'"

The talks seemingly worked wonders, as a majority of Culver's runners set personal records at the Oxford Classic. As a team, the Bulldogs finished third overall in the boys JV Gold race with 65 points and were narrowly beating out for second by Caldera, who had 64 points. Summit won the race with just 18 points. Culver did not have enough runners in the girls race to register a team score.

"It was a great race day down in Bend," said Spear.

Individually, just about everybody on the Culver squad had a career day. Senior Evan Powell broke a longstanding personal barrier, finishing in 18:58.7 to place eighth overall out of 91 runners. Sophomore Aiden Guest was only seconds behind, placing 10th with a time 19:04.7. Hudson Burgi, Debren Sanabria and Thadius Brown all finished in under 20 minutes and each placed in the top 25. Julian Sanabria set a personal record for the second consecutive race, finishing in 28:01.7.

"It is a testament to their hard work these last few weeks," Spear said of all the personal records. "We have bumped up our training on the hills and longer runs. This performance ranks them first in our district and I hope they start to believe a little more in themselves."

As for the Bulldog girls, they were a bit shorthanded but still turned in a strong performance.

Olivia Rydman placed 14th in the girls JV Gold race, crossing the finishing line in 23:23.5. It was not a personal record, but it was an improvement over last week's race at the Champs Invite. Spear noted that Rydman has been recovering from a nagging injury but has managed to turn in impressive times anyway.

In addition to Rydman, Culver runners Ariana Jeffery and Jasmine Dougherty also had remarkable performances in Bend. Jefferey knocked a full six minutes and change off her last finish in Lebanon, registering a personal-best 28:08.4 on Saturday. As for Dougherty, she shaved off three minutes from her Champs Invite time to set a season record with a 30:27.7 finish.

"Overall, a strong performance on the girls' side," said Spear.

The Bulldogs will lace up the running shoes again on Saturday, Oct. 9, when they travel to Philomath for the Paul Marmian Invitational. High school races begin at 1:30 p.m., following the conclusion of the earlier middle school races.

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