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Cross country round-up: SPHS sophomore will compete at state; McChesney also qualifies after finishing second at districts

By B. Scott Anderson

Graphic correspondent

LEBANON -- Leading up to the 3A/2A/1A-SD2 District 2 championships, St. Paul coach McKayla Fricker knew Broden Lear could qualify for the state meet with a stellar finish at the district meet. 

On Thursday the sophomore proved her right, placing fifth overall (17:14) and earning a spot in this weekend's state meet at Lane Community College.

"I knew it was going to all come down to the day and who decided to show up," Fricker said. "We came up with a race plan, taking into account his competitors and what he needed to do to place top five. He ran the race exactly as we had planned … he 'showed up' that day. He had the right attitude, the right focus and it was obvious he wasn't going to let anyone get in his way."

It's been a flagship season for Lear. He started this season with a personal best of 18:33 and dropped his time by 1:19 through the season. From pre-districts to districts alone, Lear had a 38-second personal best. He's now ranked No. 20 in the state in class 1A/2A. "I am very impressed with his maturity and mentality," Fricker said. "It is not an easy task to make state as a sophomore … and we are all excited to see how he represents St. Paul at the state level."

The Bucks had two other competitors Thursday: juniors Gianni Grasso and Josh Hershberger. Grasso (19:18) finished 35th overall and Hershberger (23:32) took home 89th. Both times were personal bests.

On the girls side, the Bucks were trying to recapture the magic of last year's team that qualified for state for the first time in the school's history. The Bucks, however, finished one spot out of qualifying again for state at fifth. "It was hard watching my team's hearts break when they found out the results, but I told them they did their best and that is all I asked from them all season, and I couldn't be more proud," Fricker said. "Looking back at the race, and each girls' performances, there is nothing to be disappointed about. They each ran an amazing race, just about everyone ran a PR, if not then a (season's best). They each stepped up for their team and ran with hearts."

The Bucks were led by senior Rachel Vela (23:03) and her 25th-place finish. She was followed by junior Jackie Diaz (24:14) at 41st, senior Taysha Veeman (24:32) at 43rd, junior Stephanie Morales (25:26) at 56th, sophomore Mayra Lozano (26:11) at 69th and junior Abby Gonzalez (29:41) at 100th.  St. Paul's Niki Morales also competed Thursday, but could not finish the race due to a previously sprained ankle.

"When the girls found out she had to step out of the race, they ran even harder knowing they had to make up for it," Fricker said. "With that said, the girls team ran their hearts out and I couldn't ask for anything more."

Veritas

For the second straight year, Cam McChesney took home second at the 3A/2A/1A-SD2 District 2 championships.

The Veritas junior ran alone for the last mile and finished with a time of 16:42. East Linn Christian's Jedaiah Wasson (15:53) took home the title. It was the same one-two finish for the two competitors at last year's district meet. Wasson, who placed fourth at last year's state meet, separated himself early and ran his way to the title.

"We have a tremendous amount of respect for that young man," said Veritas coach Ken McChesney, Cam's father. "He's very good."

While Wasson was 51 seconds ahead of Cam McChesney, he also found himself ahead of his next closest competitor – Nestucca's Joe Wilkinson, who took third with a time of 17:07. The 25-second difference between second and third, combined with the 51-second difference between first and second, meant Cam McChesney was running alone for most of the race. That's a bit of a blessing and a curse, Coach McChesney said. "It really depends on how you look at that," he said. "In running, you're in no man's land, but it's hard to sustain a high tempo because there's no visible competition. At the same time, he established where he needed to be at state."

At last year's state meet, Cam McChesney finished 10th. Going into Saturday's state meet, he's ranked eighth. Just after the district meet, the father and son went to work on a game plan for the state meet.

"The biggest goal is the third mile and figuring out a way we can help him there," Ken McChesney said. "One of the things we want to establish is a little more efficiency in his running form. On Saturday when we just practiced, he's already shown incredible improvement with just the two of us. I think when he gets through the first two miles, he can reduce the amount of energy to get through that point."

The pair have already come up with two ideas, which "I thought was brilliant," Ken McChesney said.

"He not only studied his own running, but the field, too," he said. "Both are things that will help him go forward."

Following Cam McChesney for Veritas was a 28th-place finish by junior Will Lattus (18:40.9), followed by the 36th-place finish by Simon Winikka (19:35.9), the 68th-place finish by freshman Eli Fitch (21:27.9), the 75th-place finish by sophomore Ransom Smith (21:46.9) and the 92nd-place finish by freshman Caleb Vance (24:03.8). As a team, Veritas finished seventh overall and a combined time of nearly four minutes of personal bests.

On the girls side, senior Chloe Wassei (21:43) led Veritas with her 13th-place finish. Freshman Breanna Schmitt (23:13) placed 31st, followed by the 61st-place finish by freshman Grace Wassei (25:45) and a 99th-place finish by junior Teresa Figueroa (29:01). With only four runners, Veritas did not place in the team standings.

Having four runners compete at the district meet was a feat in itself for Veritas. Wassei, who had a personal best at the district meet of 1:45, suffered an injury during the summer and couldn't compete at the beginning of the season. With no one else on the roster, it seemed the season was in jeopardy for Veritas. However, Audrey Nguyen decided to join the team and was the lone competitor for a time. That spurred Schmitt, Figueroa and Grace Wassei to join as well. Chloe Wassei later healed from her injury and suddenly, Veritas had a full team.

However, the one who kickstarted the team – Nguyen – suffered an injury prior to the district meet and was unable to compete. Nguyen, however, cheered on her teammates at the district meet.

"She did a great job and supported the team really well," McChesney said. "She's shown an amazing character for her team."  C.S. Lewis Academy

C.S. Lewis Academy had four competitors – all freshmen - at the 3A/2A/1A-SD1 District 1 championships Thursday at Tualatin High School.

Nicholas Hurst (19:38) placed 27th overall, followed by teammate Matt Oliver (32:28), who finished 45th.

St. Stephen's Academy earned the team title with 31 points.

Meanwhile, the C.S. Lewis girls team was led by Ally Trowbridge (23:39), who placed 33rd. Teammate Jennessa Hoeckema (25:38) placed 52nd for the Watchmen.

Oregon Episcopal earned the team victory with 37 points.

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