Traeger, Wedding lead Kennedy at Stayton Middle School
Kennedy's Cassie Traeger came blazing into the finish line of last week's Regis/Stayton High Invitational in a near-dead sprint.
At 22:17.60, the Trojans' junior cross country runner finished the race just a second shy of her personal-best time set a little more than a year earlier. However, she posted her first top-10 finish in a 5K of her high school career.
Traeger's eighth-place mark helped the Kennedy girls place third overall out of 12 teams at the Oct. 3 race, hosted at nature trails behind Stayton Middle School.
It was the best race of the season by far for the Kennedy junior, whose previous season-best was 23:03.80 at Silver Falls State Park on Sept. 11.
It was also the second time this season that Traeger has led the Trojans, who have oscillated back and forth between top runners this fall. Without any clear cut No. 1 option this year, Traeger and sophomore teammate Aleksandra Eyles have taken turns leading the Trojans this season.
Eyles finished just behind at Stayton, posting a season-best time of 22:57.90 for 14th place overall, as the Trojans scored 105 points. Kennedy finished just ahead of Santiam Christian (115) and behind Philomath (91) and race-winner Stayton (27) as the team hits the halfway mark of the 2019 season.
The leader-by-committee approach has been Kennedy's identity through the first half of the season, trickling down through the ranks where the Trojans boast a wealth of depth.
The two times for Traeger and Eyles on Thursday put both runners into the top 10 of the District 2 standings, followed closely by their teammates — Kylee Rodriguez, Whitney Lopez, and Mikayla Schaecher.
Rodriguez came in 26th at Stayton with a time of 24:18.80, followed closely by Lopez (32nd, 24:48.80) and Schaecerh (38th, 25:55.40). Senior Gisell Juarez added a 45th-place finish in 27:12.60 to round out the team.
All six runners rank in the top 35 of the District 2 times this season, giving the Trojans a strong core with which to contend for another district title. The Kennedy girls have won four straight district titles, dating back to 2015, and are looking for a fifth. This time, however, they are doing it without a clear cut individual title contender.
Traeger's time at Stayton was a nearly three-minute improvement over her time at the same course a year earlier. Although Eyles has yet to meet her PR of 21:24.80 set at districts last year, her finish at Stayton was more than a 90-second improvement over last year's time.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez broke her PR by 20 seconds, set five days prior in southern Oregon. And the trio of Lopez, Schaecher and Juarez all neared their season-best times from earlier this season.
The Trojans saw the return of Korbin Wedding, who led the boys team with a 25th-place time of 19:28.00 in his first race of the 2019 season.
Wedding was a vital member of last year's state championship qualifying team, placing 36th at state and 29th at districts.
Despite the race being his first of the year, he too improved over his time at Stayton from 2018, shaving nearly a minute and a half off his finish last year.
He was followed closely by senior teammate Nick Riedman, who placed 29th in 19:40.70. Junior Michael Savage placed 70th in a season-best time of 21:43.50, while freshman Raul Vasquez finished in 95th with a time of 22:51.30.
Freshman Dakota Heard rounded out the boys with a time of 15:27.00 on the 3K junior varsity course, placing 71st overall.
Kennedy's season continues this week when the Trojans travel to Philomath High School for the Paul Mariman Invitational at 1 p.m. on Oct. 12.
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