The field of boys elite varsity runners stretches out along Mirror Pond at Drake Park in Bend on Saturday in the Puma Classic. more photosmore photos

Photos by Rob Kerr

The field of boys elite varsity runners stretches out along Mirror Pond at Drake Park in Bend on Saturday in the Puma Classic.

Summit girls take second at Puma Classic in Bend, while Mountain View’s Hanson takes third place

By Beau Eastes/ The Bend Bulletin

Published: October 07. 2007 5:00AM PST

When Summit’s top runner, Alyssa O’Connor, pulled out of the Puma Classic on Saturday, it might have been easy for the Storm girls to accept defeat with the loss of the 2005 Class 4A state runner-up.

Fortunately for Summit coach Dave Clark, that wasn’t the case.

Led by Lourdes Valverde’s 14th-place finish, the Storm took second place in the Puma’s elite varsity girls race at Drake Park in Bend, finishing with 93 points. Snohomish (Wash.) won the elite division with 79 points.

“This just affirms that we can be state contenders,” said Clark, whose squad finished fifth at state last year. “I’m very impressed with the girls.”

With Valverde leading the way in place of the injured O’Connor, Summit’s top five runners all finished among the race’s top 25 placers. More than 900 runners and 34 schools participated in the meet, with teams coming from Washington and Idaho in addition to Oregon.

“Last year Lourdes kind of showed up out of nowhere,” Clark said. “This season she’s getting better and better and really improving.”

Individually, Mountain View’s Kelly Hanson posted the top finish of any Central Oregon runner in the elite races, placing third in the girls race behind two Idaho runners, Nicole Neilsen of Borah High School in Boise and Megan Bartlett from Sandpoint. Neilsen finished the course in a blistering 18 minutes, 22.1 seconds.

“I tried but I couldn’t catch the second-place girl,” said Hanson, who finished the race in 19:12.3, 38 seconds behind Bartlett. “I tried to speed up but she just kept her pace.”

Saturday’s race was Hanson’s first in the elite division this season.

“She’s not used to having girls in front of her,” said Mountain View coach Scott Steinman. “But this was good for her.”

Crook County’s Michelly Foley also made a strong showing, taking fifth place in the elite varsity girls race.

“This helps to know what to expect (at bigger meets),” said Foley, who finished ninth at state last fall. “These runners go out so fast (at the start of a race).”

Sisters took eighth (210) in the elite girls division while Mountain View (228) came in right after the Outlaws in ninth.

Central Oregon’s boys didn’t fare as well as their female counterparts. Bend’s Scott Gage finished 13th in the elite varsity boys race, the top placing for any runner from Deschutes, Crook or Jefferson counties. Sisters had the strongest boys showing of any Central Oregon squad, taking sixth place with 172 points.

“The only two Oregon schools that beat us were two ranked 6A teams,” Outlaw coach Charlie Kanzig said about his 4A program. “It was such a hot field. Everyone went out too hard, but our guys hung on.”

Summit finished eighth (194), Bend came in 10th (221) and Mountain View took 13th (335).

“This was a big wake-up call,” said Steinman, whose Mountain View teams had been running at the invitational level before Saturday. “It’s exactly what we needed.”