Tualatin's Payton, Gearin run to district titles
OREGON CITY — Andrew Payton wanted it all.
Well, thanks to an impressive performance, the Tualatin High School senior, and his teammates on the Timberwolf boys cross country team got it all.
Payton, taking charge from start to finish, ran to victory in the boys varsity race, while also helping Tualatin claim the team crown, at the Three Rivers League district cross country championships, held Oct. 30 under bright, sunny skies at Clackamas Community College.
"It went very well. Coming in, as a team, we wanted to get the team win, and also the individual win," Payton said. "It's very meaningful to me, because, all four years, we've always had a chance at that, and the last three years, it just hasn't worked out like it should. This year, it all came down to this, and we did it. Our chemistry is a lot closer than it's been the last three years, and I think that has a lot to do with it."
The Tualatin girls cross country team came oh-so-close to also getting it all. Tualatin senior Kaitlyn Gearin took first place in the varsity girls race at the TRL district meet, while the Timberwolf girls were a close second to West Linn in the team standings.
"I'm just proud of us, and proud of the effort my teammates put in," Gearin said.
Both Tualatin squads also advance to the Class 6A state championships. The top three teams at the district meet, as well as the top seven individuals, if they're not a part of the top three teams, advance to compete at the state meet, which will be held Nov. 9 at Lane Community College in Eugene.
"This means a lot," Payton said. "We'll celebrate tonight, but also know that we did our jobs, and keep our heads up. We won't underestimate anyone, including ourselves. It's going to be a lot of fun."
Payton, and the Tualatin boys, certainly seemed to have a lot of fun at the TRL district meet. The Wolves took first place in the team standings with a score of 41 points. Oregon City was second with a score of 63.
"It means a lot," Tualatin sophomore Samuel Roach said of the district title. "We trained together a lot as a team. We're a pretty tight group of dudes, and we're friends, and it means a lot to do something like this together as a team. It was just a really good accomplishment."
Payton, distancing himself from the pack early in the race, ran to victory in a time of 16 minutes, 0.4 seconds for the 5,000-meter course, despite not being pushed at all throughout the race.
"Going in, the strategy was to take it from the (starting) gun," Payton said. "I didn't want to play any games. This course, I didn't realize how strenuous it is. You're always looking down, even though you should be looking up. It really takes it out of you. It was tough, but I'm happy with it, knowing I can push the competition that I'll see next week."
The district title was the second in a row for Payton, but there was one thing that was a little bit different this year.
"It was my first time ever wearing sunglasses," he said. "Just coming up that hill, you're really going to be grimacing, so I wanted to do something to help with that."
"He ran amazing today, and he did it without any competition, and he had a phenomenal time," Roach said of Payton. "He always does his thing, and he's a tough, fierce competitor. He showed he's dominant today."
Meanwhile, Roach outkicked West Linn senior Dash Lipsey to the finish line to take second place in a time of 16:21.3. Lipsey was third at 16:21.8.
"It went pretty well," Roach said. "I think I went into the race knowing what I had to do, and I did it. Knowing what I had to do for my team, and that the district title was something that could be real."
Also for the Tualatin boys, sophomore Caleb Lakeman finished in 11th place at 16:53.9, sophomore Dean Horton was 12th at 16:57.6, freshman Aaron Lakeman was 15th at 17:00.8, sophomore Cole Noretto was 19th at 17:16.7 and senior Sam Smith was 30th at 17:32.6.
The Wolves are now looking to keep running strong at the state meet.
"The goal next week, individually for me, top five would be a realistic goal, knowing it will be my last time ever on that Lane Community College course," Payton said. "As a team, honestly, I don't know what we're capable of, but we want to do the best we can. Maybe, top seven, honestly, I think we could do that. I think we'll all peaking right now. It's going to be a lot of fun."
"I think if we could get in the top seven, that would be great," Roach said. "For me, individually, the top 30 is around my range. That would be good."
Gearin, who finished second behind Fiona Lenth from St. Mary's Academy last year, wouldn't be denied this year. Running second to Lenth most of the way, Gearin sprinted past the St. Mary's junior late in the race to win in a time of 18:13.4. Lenth was second at 18:22.8.
"This means a lot. I was just hoping to have a good race today, so I'm happy with it," Gearin said. "I took the lead toward the top of the hill. It wasn't really a strategy. I wasn't really sure I was going to go. She kind of took it out really fast, so I was telling myself to catch back up to her."
Junior Olivia Seits also had a strong race for the Tualatin girls, as she ran to eighth place in a time of 19:28.5.
"Olivia is awesome, and I'm glad she had a good race today," Gearin said.
Also for the Wolves, sophomore Mahathi Sridhar was 10th at 19:41.0, junior Lily Hughes was 15th at 20:21.0, senior Taylor Cockrell was 21st at 20:49.8, senior Emma Koehmstedt was 32nd at 21:02.8 and junior Kara Helland was 36th at 21:18.8.
The Tualatin girls finished in second in the team standings at the district meet with 55 points. West Linn won the team title with a score of 53.
The Wolves are now taking some high hopes to the state meet.
"Hopefully, as a team, we'll place around the top seven," Gearin said. "That would be good. We're starting to put things together, so I'm hoping we'll have a good race. For myself, I'm hoping for the top five. But, I'm just excited to race."
The girls race at the Class 6A state championships is set to start at 2:55 p.m. on Nov. 9, with the boys race to follow at 3:30 p.m.
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