Potter leads Lane women to region title
Womens cross country looks to go from worst to first
After going through a rebuilding year in 2012, this year’s Lane women’s cross country team looks to return to winning form and contend for a regional championship.
Last year’s team, which finished last in the NWAACC South Region, was short on natural cross country runners and was made up of mostly sprinters and middle-distance runners who were trying to stay in shape for track season.
This year, Head Coach Mike Blackmore has brought in a mix of local prep stars and talented transfers from other schools.
“Our number one girl from last year is actually our number three on this year’s team,” Blackmore said. “The women’s team is in really good standing right now compared to where they were last year.”
Macaulay Wilson is Lane’s only returning runner from last season. She finished 8th at the NWAACC South Region Championship and was consistently the Titans’ number one runner.
“This season has been completely different, especially on the girls team, because the girls that were recruited to run are actual distance runners, unlike last year,” Wilson said. “I feel a lot stronger than I did last year and more confident being able to run side by side with my teammates.”
The Titans will lead with a talented freshman who has already proven that she has what it takes to bring home an individual title in a championship race.
“Our top runner is Katy Potter from Siuslaw, another state champion that we’re happy to have,” Blackmore said. “She was second last week in our first meet — about 19 seconds behind last year’s NWAACC champion — and she’s only going to improve.”
Potter is the 2012 4A Cross Country state champion and finished the Titans’ first 5k in 19:29 — a half ahead of any other runner from the NWAACC Southern Region.
Blackmore said he will also depend heavily on freshman Kristine Dunn, a high school sprint champion from Cottage Grove, who is making her cross country debut for the Titans.
“She’s kind of our hidden gem. She’s a 400- and 800-meter runner and a soccer player and she was our fifth woman in our first meet, really not knowing how to run a cross country race,” Blackmore said. “Now that she’s got a race under her belt, and is starting to understand the whole cross country training process. I think we’ll see good things from her going forward.”
Chelsea Spencer and Allie Cross are new additions who could both make a huge impact for Titans if they are able to run to their full potential.
“Chelsea was second in the 4A cross country meet twice a couple of years ago.. She transferred in from Air Force Academy. She’s maybe a little behind in her aerobic fitness, but I think she’ll come on when she needs to,” Blackmore said.
He said Allie ran an 18:35 5k as a junior, but last year she had some injuries that probably inhibited her from having a really good track season.
“She had a tough senior year and hardly ran at all during track season, but right now she’s our second girl and she’s been great,” he said.
It is very rare for a team to make the jump from last to first place in a single season in any sport. However, Blackmore believes this year’s Titan team has a chance to do just that.
“With all the talent in the conference it could be tough to crack into the top,” Blackmore said. “But if this group continues to grow like they have over the last couple of months, I think there is certainly a chance of winning a trophy.”
Men's Cross Country reloaded with local talent
Led by NWAACC champion Elias Gedyon, last year’s mens cross country team dominated the Southern Region on the way to placing second at the NWAACC championships, their best finish since 2006.
The only returning runner from last year’s group is sophomore Javier Velasco, who finished seventh at the Southern Region Championships, but spent the entire summer recovering from a calf injury and may not be able to compete until late in the season.
“We’re hoping to get Javi back. He’s been doing a lot of pool and bike time right now; so he may be doing that for the next month before we’re ready to race him. We’re hoping to work him in but if not we can also redshirt him,” said Mike Blackmore, head coach.
To top last year’s success, the Titans must rely on an entirely different group of athletes and a much more team-oriented strategy.
“We don’t have a superstar like Elias this year,” Blackmore said. “But I think we honestly have four guys who are better than our number two guy from last year, so we’re really solid up front.”
The Titans are lead by a talented group of freshmen who have dominated the Oregon high school track and cross country scene for the past several seasons.
“What’s different from last year is that we have four guys that on any given day, whoever is on, could be the first guy across the finish line,” Blackmore said. “When you have four guys who are all running within ten seconds of each other, some good things can happen that way.”
Eduardo Juarez of Hermiston ran the fourth fastest high school 5k time in the state of Oregon in 2012 and was the Titans top finisher in their first meet of the season. He and Velasco were both part of Hermiston’s 2010 5A cross country champion team.
Matthew Campbell and Hayden Schaffner were both members of Siuslaw’s back-to-back state champion cross country teams in 2011 and 2012. Both were also individual champions at the 4A level. Campbell took home the 2012 cross country title and Schaffner was the 800 meter champion during the 2011 track season.
Twin brothers Jonathan Cornish and David Cornish of North Valley High School finished third and fourth respectively in the 2012 4A cross country championship and led their team to a second place overall finish.
“I think that one of the big keys to our potential success is that all of these guys have been on the podium at the state meet, including some state champions,” Blackmore said. “We’re focusing on this whole team thing and not just individual titles. If that happens that’s great, but our overall goal is to win a team championship.”
Despite Blackmore’s team first approach, there has been some friendly competition during the Titan workouts thus far.
“Everyone has a different set of skills, as we were all trained differently at the high school level,” says Campbell. “It has been competitive these first couple of weeks, as we all test to see what each of our strengths are.”
Having so much talent in one group is certainly a luxury, but Blackmore is aware that it can also become problematic throughout the season.
“I think the biggest challenge, especially on the guy’s side, is that there’s a lot of talent up front and it’s easy to get carried away in practice and start trying to compete and race with one another and turn your season into a mess at the end,” explained Blackmore.
“I think if we come together as a group, as opposed to working against each other, we’ve got a chance to do some really good things this season.”
By Jarrid Denney //SPORTS EDITOR