'Pack outrun Adidas field

By BOB ELEY       Sunday, October 16, 2005

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Sports Editor

       The West Valley girls cross-country running team has proven that it is the best team in Alaska over the past two years, and on Saturday the Wolfpack proved they are one of the top teams in the Pacific Northwest.

The Wolfpack girls took Portland, Ore., by storm as they ran away with the team title in the Elite High School Girls Division of the Adidas Cross Country Classic at Freewheel Park.     It was a pretty impressive performance, West Valley coach Doug Herron said in a telephone interview shortly after the Wolfpack shocked many fans at the meet, which attracted the top teams from throughout Washington, Oregon and Alaska.

I knew they could do it because this is such a unique group of girls, who have the ability to perform at a very high level, Herron said.

        Every West Valley runner who ran on Saturday turned in a personal-best performance, and, just like the state championships two weeks ago, the Wolfpack placed their top five runners in the top 20.    I don't think it's hit me yet just how impressive of a performance this group of girls put on today, Herron said. They really ran a perfect race. They looked great, ran smart and were thoroughly impressive.   

         Dynamic sophomore Crystal Pitney led the way for the Wolfpack, finishing second with a personal-best time of 17 minutes and 58 seconds. She was just 10 seconds behind winner Claire Michel of Clackamas, Ore. It was the first time Pitney had broken the 18-minute barrier on a 3.1-mile course.     This was kind of a breakthrough race for her, Herron said of Pitney, who won her first Alaska Schools Activities Association individual cross-country title two weeks ago in Soldotna. She really looked good out there today.     

       West Valley finished the meet with 58 points, followed by Jesuit High School of Oregon with 80 and Snohomish High School of Washington with 92. Jesuit was ranked second in the Northwest and Snohomish was ranked third, according to Herron.      West Valley's next four finishers all were within 11 seconds of each other.

Junior Becca Rorabaugh came across the finish line in 12th place in 18:54.7, followed by freshman Kayla Teslow in 13th place in 18:57.3, junior Maggie Callahan in 15th place in 19:00.2 and senior Christina Gillis in 20th in 19:05.5.

Some of the college coaches that were here for this meet said they were not so sure that there are very many college teams around that have a better top five runners than we do, Herron said. They were very impressed with how patient and poised these girls ran.     Rounding out the Wolfpack lineup were junior Lynne Flint, 40th in 19:49.3, and senior Casey Miller 54th in 20:30.3.   Today we had an average team time of about 18:45 and it was something like 19:35 for the season, Herron said. There is no other team in this area that is even close to that.

     West Valley wasn't ranked in the Northwest Region, but after Saturday's showing, Herron said that several coaches will be pushing to get the Wolfpack in the top two so that they can be invited to compete in the Nike National Championships that will be held in December in Portland.     There are a lot of people who really want to see us compete in that event, Herron said.     Herron said that the Wolfpack went into Saturday's race with the confidence of a championship team.     We didn't set our expectations so high that we would be disappointed if we didn't win, but at the same time we knew that there was no reason that we couldn't come out on top, the first-year Wolfpack coach said. When they realized that they had won, it was pretty exciting for them.

          And the victory created quite a stir among the spectators and competitors alike.    The first thing everyone was asking was: 'Where in the heck is West Valley from, anyway?' Herron said. Then they started talking about what an impressive performance it was.     Herron said he knew it was going to be a good when sophomore Samantha Davis finished fifth in the junior varsity invitational race with a personal-best time of 20 minutes and 24 seconds. There were about 200 runners in the event.     She beat her personal best by more than a minute and you could see all of the other girls feed off of that, Herron said. It was just a phenomenal day for a very impressive group of young ladies.