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St. Helens girls, Scappoose boys, and Lions' Nichols all run well at state cross-country championships

PAMPLIN MEDIA GROUP PHOTO: KIT MACAVOY - St. Helens High junior Waylon Nichols approaches the finish in the Class 5A boys cross-country championship race on Saturday, Nov. 3 at Lane Community College in Eugene.EUGENE — Borrowing a phrase made famous by a former college football coach in the Emerald City, the St. Helens girls cross-country team and the Scappoose boys — and one St. Helens individual boys runner — all Won the Day on Saturday, Nov. 3.

Both teams performed better than expected in the Oregon School Activities Association Class 5A championships.

The St. Helens girls finished seventh in the state.

The Scappoose boys placed 11th, one spot above a league rival, Parkrose.

And St. Helens junior Waylon Nichols was 21st, the highest boys finisher from either local school.

"Based on times compared to the rest of the state competition, our girls did better than we anticipated," St. Helens coach Naomi Reedy said.

According to records provided by former St. Helens coach Gerry Tinkle, the Lions girls' seventh-place showing was the highest for any St. Helens squad (boys or girls) since the school began competing at the 5A level.

Nichols, meanwhile, improved his time and place significantly from 2017, when he was 57th in 17 minutes, 29 seconds. This time, he completed the course at Lane Community College in 16:59.

The St. Helens girls' top four runners were only 92 seconds apart. Senior Mackenzie Trainer and freshman Hannah Hayduk placed 24th and 25th, respectively, both in 20:16. Senior Cheyenne Trainer was 41st in 20:47. Senior Kaitlyn Silva took 60th in 21:48.

"This relatively small spread contributed to our higher team finish," Reedy said.

The individual times weren't great, but they rarely are at the state meet.

"The state course is a difficult one, so we weren't expecting any personal records for the season," Reedy said. "However, the girls competed well to improve their overall placings. Overall, I'd say we're very pleased with our athletes' showing at state this year."

Scappoose coach Kevin Pinkstaff felt much the same way after the 5A boys race.

"It was a really good end to the season," he said.

For the Indians, just making it to state was a big positive.

"Going in to the Northwest Oregon Conference meet (Oct. 24 at Blue Lake Park), we saw ourselves as underdogs, as far as state qualification goes," Pinkstaff said, "so that actually took pressure off our kids, and they were just focused on ending the season with their best race. That goes for all of our teams, not just the varsity boys.

"As it turned out, they did a phenomenal job with that — almost every single runner set a PR (at the NWOC meet), and most of the few that didn't at least set a season best. As a coach, it was just so impressive to see them step up and run so hard for themselves and each other."

The Indians nipped La Salle Prep by two points to earn the third and final NWOC team berth to state.

"It was really a credit to each of the guys individually digging deep for them to finish where they did as a team," Pinkstaff said.

Getting the experience of running as a team at state last week "was the best thing that could have happened for them heading into 2019," Pinkstaff added. "They bonded even tighter during that extra week leading up to state. Being such a young team, and it being the first time any of them competed at state in cross country, it was a big task ahead of them, but I was really impressed how composed they were.

"They approached it similarly to the conference meet, not feeling any pressure of finishing a particular place, and they took the perspective that it was a great opportunity to even compete at the state meet.

"Each of them executed their race plan very well, and ran a great race."

The only bummer was the fate of sophomore Griffin Barron, who fell with a sprained ankle with about 1,000 meters left in the state race and didn't finish.

"He was having a strong race up to that point, running fifth for our guys," Pinkstaff said.

Freshmen Rowen and Luke Suchoski led the Indians. Rowen finished 24th in 17:06, Luke 36th in 17:21. Next for Scappoose was junior Josh Lull, 64th in 17:55. Other scorers were junior Gustavo Villalvazo, 69th in 18:15, and senior Jordan Buchanan, 81st in 18:54.

At Lane CC, Scappoose turned the tables on Parkrose, which had edged the Indians at the district meet. At state, Scappoose scored 258 points, while Parkrose was one spot back with 281.

"It was a sign of progress that they were able to beat Parkrose. Each of the guys left the meet feeling proud of their day, and their season overall," Pinkstaff said. "And I think it was a motivator for them to work even harder preparing for next year to earn a trip back." 

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