It is always a pleasant traveling to Bend, Oregon, as one passes through some great scenery in the Cascade Range. The Three Sisters is just one of the stunning vistas. Once at Drake Park in Bend the Puma Invitational offered some interesting sights as well.

The girls? elite competition saw Brittney Dunn of North Medford & Alyssa O?Connor of Summit take the lead at the start with the Medford runner having to take a sharp break to the right about 100 meters down the line by the large pine tree to avoid going off the course. The pair continued to lead after taking the short loop & returning to the starting line. Trailing about five yards behind were Kristen Palmer & Anna Stone of Coeur d?Alene, Idaho.

Returning from the southern portion of the course the Viking runners continued to lead & the race continued in that manner as they began the long loop of Drake Park. Palmer had a slight lead over her teammate as she returned once again to the start but the race began to take its eventual form, when they returned from the southern end & headed for the bridge. As they approached the bridge it was Anna Stone, who held a slight lead over Karleigh Gempler of Borah. On her heals was Kris Thomasberg of Redmond with O?Connor just behind.

At this point the race crossed a pedestrian bridge over the Deschutes River and by the time they had reached the other side the trio had opened a 20 meter gap. O?Connor was left by herself, as she had a large gap over Casey Masterson of Sheldon, who trailed her. The leaders ran in a pack as they traversed the half mile or so loop on the other side of the river & began to pick up the pace as they headed back across the bridge.

It was here that Gempler, who had earlier placed 7th in the Firman meet, began to pull away from her challengers. She won with a fine time of 18:11. Thomasberg, who was 3 seconds behind, came in second, while the Coeur d? Alene pair placed 3rd & 4th ahead of O?Connor of Summit, who passed Masterson to take fifth place.

The team competition saw South Eugene easily handle the rest of the field. Lauren Sharp led the Axemen with an 8th place finish with a time of 19:02. Whitney Pitman & Lauren Harvey were just behind in 9th & 10th. The team showed impressive strength as their entire top five finished under 20 minutes & their 6th runner barely missed the mark. When you consider that their top two JV runners finished in the mid-twenty minutes they have to be considered a serious threat to take the State title. Summit led by Alyssa O? Connell was a distant second in the race, while North Medford edged Redmond to take third place.

The race for the guy?s individual title saw Chris Reed of Klamath Union take a quick lead but by the time that they had returned to the start Colin Hozak of Heritage (WA) led but was trailed by Eric Lynch of South Eugene & Dylan Coleman of Summit. Borah?s Sawyer Bosch & Sean Huey assumed the lead by the end of the short second loop of Drake Park & seemed to be effortlessly running along as they sauntered away toward the mile mark. Coleman of Summit trailed at that point & he had a trail of runners, each separated by a few yards, behind him.

With the large lap of the park finished the order remai ed the same but the Borah runners were now racing each other, as evidenced by the strain on their faces. They had a distinct gap between themselves & Coleman as they headed toward bridge. Behind Coleman came Cameron Barleen of Ashland, who had a five yard lead over a pack of 5 runners that included Lynch of South Eugene. The leaders maintained their dual on the other side of the river, while Lynch made a big move to take 3rd position by the time the bridge was once again traversed. Coleman, who has been having some health issues the last few weeks, fell off the earlier pace yet still maintained 4th position.

Sawyer had taken a slight lead coming off the bridge & continued to stretch as he rolled to the finish. His teammate Huey easily held 2nd ahead of Lynch, who easily distanced Coleman. Austin Knudson of Grant moved up to take 5th at the end.

The team race was quite interesting with the up front depth of Borah, which not only took 1- 2 but also added a 6th place effort by Brandon Frisbee, being just a bit too much for Grant to overcome. Still the Grant pack led by Knutson nearly pulled it off & only lost by two points to the invaders from Idaho. Summit took third place. The top four of Grant were all at or below 16:30, so they can be expected to have something to say at the State Meet.

Kudos to the Bend staff for working a fine meet that saw prompt results. With fine weather I am sure that many, me included, look forward to returning next year.