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As sophomores, Ben and Jacob are two of the fastest runners in the Northwest Oregon Conference

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Jacob, front, and Ben McClelland finished sixth and seventh at the NWOC Preview meet last month.

Ben McClelland snaps his fingers as he tries to come up with an answer to a question.

A few minutes later, Jacob MClelland does the same.

Fortunately for Wilsonville's cross country team, this is not the only thing the McClelland twins have in common.

As sophomores, Ben and Jacob are two of the fastest runners in the Northwest Oregon Conference.

Ben's personal record time of 16 minutes, 40.6 seconds is the fourth best in the NWOC this season. Jacob's season best mark of 16:55.7 is ninth.

While the McClellands are still somewhat new to high school cross country, they have been running for years.

"In first or second grade, I just remember running around because I felt like it," Jacob says.

At Stafford Primary School in West Linn, the twins took part in Miles of May, a program where students were challenged to see how many miles they could run in the month.

"We were kind of insane," Ben says. "I think in third grade, I ran 80 miles. It's interesting seeing how far I've come since then and not running because I'm trying to get as many miles in before the bell rings, but because I actually like running."

The twins then joined the Athey Creek Middle School cross country team in the seventh grade.

Even though the McClellands forgot their warmups at their first high school race, the 2018 Wilsonville Night Meet last August, Jacob finished ninth in 10:25 and Ben placed 10th in 10:25.3 in the freshman 3K.

"Everybody was pumped and a little surprised," Jacob recalls of the Night Meet. "So many people were interested in these two guys that were nobodies a few minutes ago. That helped me take off last year."

Jacob ran a 18:03 at his first 5K, the NWOC Preview, but finished in 16:48.4 at the Warner Pacific XC Classic last October. He then placed 13th in 17:15.8 at NWOC Championship meet.

Ben was never able to get under 17 minutes, but ran the faster time of the twins at the NWOC Championships, finishing 11th in 17:08.9.

"We've always been really close together competitively as runners," Ben says. "I think it's really awesome because I have someone to talk with when I'm running and I have someone to train against. We both get faster off of each other because we want to be the faster brother. Last year he got me in cross country, but in track I got him. It's kind of a coin flip."

On the track last spring, Ben posted faster times than Jacob in both the 1,500 and 3,000-meter runs.

Jacob and Ben placed 25th and 73rd, respectively, at the 2018 Class 5A state cross country meet.

"The end of last (cross country) season was kind of hectic," Ben says. "It was really rough. I was pretty tired."

To prepare for their sophomore year, the twins increased their summer mileage.

"Before I used to think a 5K was long and would run no more than three miles a day," Ben says. "Now I'm running six to seven miles a day. The duration of my runs has more than doubled. It's allowed me to be a lot better than I would have been."

Wilsonville cross country coach David Barkley describes the McClellands as "intense workers."

"Mostly you have to make sure they don't race every practice," he says. "I think they have started to learn how to pace a season, as well as learning to pace any one race."

PMG PHOTO: DEREK WILEY - Ben McClelland, left, and Jacob McClelland are two of the fastest runners in the NWOC this season.

Jacob finished sixth at the 2019 NWOC Preview in 17:01.5 at Blue Lake Park in Gresham on Sept. 11. Ben was right behind him, placing seventh in 17:02.2.

"Jacob likes to try and catch me right at the finish line," Ben says. "He did that in cross country last year a lot. He tries to be more strategic, start slower and then catch people. Sometimes, I start out too fast."

Running at Lane Community College in Eugene on the same course as the state meet, Ben clocked a 16:40.6 at the Northwest Classic on Sept. 14.

"The race was a point of redemption from last year because I had a pretty disappointing state performance last year," Ben says. "It was definitely thrilling to do that."

Ben and Jacob also are being pushed by another Wilsonville underclassman — freshman Mason Weisgerber, who has the fifth fastest time in the NWOC this season: 16:43.9.

"Mason is taking whatever me and Jacob did last year and multiplied it," Ben says. "I think that's good because having fast freshmen always keeps the varsity team on its toes and makes a better team in general. I like racing him. I raced him in middle school, and I come back, and here he is again. We're back at it. He's fun though. Now I have two people (Jacob and Mason) I can run against."

While Jacob is dealing with an IT band injury and ankle tendonitis, he is not ready to accept defeat by his twin brother. He finished only four seconds behind Ben on Saturday at the Harrier Classic in Albany.

"Those things have both built my resolve and made me appreciate being a runner more," he says. "They're setbacks, but they're also chances for me to step up my game and improve myself and to bring my mindset to a new level."

Ben just wants to keep getting faster.

"It's time to start being ambitious," he says. "I'm confident in what I can do, so I really want to start pushing the limits of what I think is possible."

Derek Wiley
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