Small schools plan for grande finale
Not long after East Linn Christian coach Kellen Peters found out cross country would not have an OSAA championship this season, the motivation to fill that void was staring him in the face.
"I just saw the look on a couple of my seniors' faces, and that was all I needed to know that we needed this," Peters said.
The following morning, Feb. 19, Peters wrote a message on Athletic.net to all 3A, 2A and 1A programs, inviting them to a season-ending meet. The response was overwhelming.
"Within three hours, we had 35 schools sign up," Peters said. "By the next day we were up to about 44. Now we're at 73."
So Peters teamed up with Westside Christian coach Scott Ball and Kennedy coach Steve Ritchie to start planning a season-ending meet for the small schools. They have scheduled it for April 10 at Cheadle Lake Park in Lebanon, the home course for East Linn Christian.
"It's a double-loop course, so parents can stand in basically a 100-square-foot spot and see most of the course," Peters said. "It's a very spectator-friendly course."
Peters said that 11 schools have donated between $50 and $200 to fund the meet. Steens Mountain Running Camp has offered to pick up whatever leftover costs are needed to run the meet, according to Peters.
Bandon coach Brent Hutton connected the organizers with a cabinet maker who will make trophies to resemble the ones the OSAA awards to the top four teams in each division. Former Lebanon coach Brad Bauer, who is now retired and owns a timing company, has offered to do the timing for the meet.
Westside Christian is arranging to provide every athlete and coach that participates with a commemorative t-shirt.
"Most of the coaches don't even know yet that we've gotten all this stuff rolling," Peters said.
The organizers are still working on the qualifying process for the three races – 3A and 2A/1A for boys and 3A/2A/1A for girls. The tentative plan is for each of the four districts to provide two team qualifiers and 5-7 individual qualifiers, in addition to 1-3 at-large individual qualifiers, depending on the strength of the district.
A nine-coach committee met Thursday on Zoom to discuss qualifying. They plan is to have it finalized by Saturday.
Peters said that the feedback about the meet has been overwhelmingly positive.
"I haven't really had any negative comments about it," he said. "It's more like, 'Hey, I'm glad you're doing this, how can I help? Or, 'Thank you for doing this for the kids.' When I went back and told my kids that they have a chance at getting to state, they were thrilled. Totally worth it to me."
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