George Fox Invitational

With the move of Randy Dalzell from Concordia to George Fox there was some concern that one of the brightest meets in Oregon’s XC season might be diminished, if not lost all together.  By the meet that had been sponsored by Adidas merely moved from Fernhill and its parking problems to Willamette Mission Park, which had ample space for visitors.   More importantly our friends in Alaska continued to make the long trek after their state meet to take on some of the best in Oregon.  In the past decade Alaskan title holders like Trevor Dunbar and Leah Francis lodged successful forays here and this year was no less successful.  

The girls’ Elite race featured two-time Alaska champion Allie Ostrander of Kenai, who was finally getting the chance to face competition in the lower 48 states.   Allie has regularly defeated foes by over a minute and is undefeated in XC except for a bout of hypothermia at State during her freshman campaign and has even defeated Kikkan Randall, an Olympian, on the “roads” yet she faced a stern test with the likes of Ella Donaghu of Grant, whose had a banner year in Oregon as well as Alexis Fuller of Washington and a small legion of other noteworthy challengers.  

Not surprisingly the initial blast from the proverbial blocks saw the favorites hold back a bit, while others forged an immediate lead.    It did not take long for the cream to flow to the front and prior to the mile mark and fans saw a trio of runners moving a good thirty meters ahead of a chase pack of around six runners, which included Fuller.   That group was a solid fifteen meters in front of the phalanx that followed but ensconced at the front were Ostrander & Donaghu plus Hannah Gindlesperger of Summit, who ran side by side.

During the course of the ensuing mile the trio became a duo, when the Summit star fell off the pace.  Neither runners nor fans often know how much strength in reserve the rivals have but it seemed likely the race might not be resolved until a late stretch run but such was not the case.    When Ostrander made her move it was with alacrity and in an instant she surged ahead.  Donaghu, who suffered the same fate against Alexa Efraimson of Camas at Portland Meadows, did her best to match the move but was forced to yield ground grudgingly.   The end result was a brilliant mark of 16:47, which was easily a personal best for the Alaskan sprite.   Ella Donaghu finished in a rather stunning time of 16:54, which seems like it ought to be the winning time and would be in most races with ease.   Hannah Gindlesperger finished alone in third with an impressive clocking of 17:37.  

Also run strong times, yet relegated to a supporting role were Jesse Perkinson of Roseburg, who placed 4th in 17:53 and Alexis Fuller, who caught at least two runners in  the home stretch and finished fifth in 17:56 nipping Olivia Brooks of Summit who shared the time.   Shaylen Crook of Marshfield (17:57) and Piper Donaghu of Grant (17:59) were all under the magic barrier and a part of that stunning chase pack of excellence placing 7th and 8th.   Ninth went to Emma Wren of Cleveland in 18:17, tenth to Emily Beyer of Molalla with 18:19 and Phacelia Cramer of South Eugene took 11th in 18:21.  Happily returning after a long layoff, but naturally nowhere near full strength, was Sara Tsai, who finished 17th in 18:33.  Summit won the team title with 62 points and South Eugene was 2nd with 105 – fifteen points ahead of Snohomish.  Grant was fourth with 150.

The boys’ race saw a pack of around ten runners separate early and from then on it was a war of attrition.  Runners slowly fell off the pace until towards the end there were only two runners remaining.   To knowledgeable fans the final pairing was hardly a surprise, for Matthew Maton of Summit is generally recognized as the top runner in the State, while Levi Thomet of Kodiak is now a two-time State champion.  Thomet, who is one of the top returning runners from last year’s Foot Locker West race finally succumbed late in the race allowing the Storm runner to thunder home in a scintillating 14:32.   Thomet followed with a stellar 14:43 giving his state much to be proud of on Saturday.  

The overall depth of the field was readily event, when a legion of runners charged home with times in the low & mid-fifteen minute mark and leading the group was Reilly Bloomer of South Eugene who ran 15:11 yet giving him only a two second margin of Mack Marbas of Siuslaw.  Tomas Navarro of Salesian placed fifth in 15:24 and Ray Schireman of North Medford took sixth in 15:28.   Roseburg’s Kenny Freeman sped home 7th in 15:33 with Geremia Lizier-Zmudzinski of Forest Grove garnering 8th in 15:39.   Mitchell Butler of Siuslaw claimed 9th in 15:40 with Caleb Hoffman of Bend earning tenth with 15:43.   Tyler Jones of Summit annexed 11th in 15:46, as he aided the Storm’s winning score of   78 points.  South Eugene was 2nd with 144 – nine points ahead of Snohomish.

Strong times were hardly relegated to the Elite race and Fabian Cardenas of Umatilla was the best example with his clocking of 15:53.  Sisay Gillock of Portland Christian placed second in 16:02.   Columbia won the boys’ team race with 84 points & High Tech was 2nd with 176.   Alaska made its presence felt in the gals race with South Anchorage runners Morgan Lash (19:03) & Kaitlyn Bailly (19:20) going 1 - 2 and leading the team to a 78 - 83 victory over Bend.    All in all it was a fine first effort for the reconfigured race with the only really problem being that the course is flat and little more than a parking lot with grass over it but the there were trees to sport fall color.  The course being what it was there were scores of personal bests and few runners will ever challenge them until they are older and stronger.   Still, if one goes, to only one race in season in Oregon not counting State, this is the one to attend and our Alaskan brethren did their bit to make it special.   Kudos to Coach Marcus Dunbar of Kodiak, father of Trevor, to bring his squad once again to help support a building tradition of excellence.