After a seemingly abrupt end to the summer warmth and sunshine, Cottage Grove cross country caught a bit of a break last Saturday in their only home meet of the season.
The rain clouds briefly departed for a day as Schwarz Park at Dorena Reservoir played host to the Harrier’s Challenge 5k - also known colloquially as ‘The Dam Run’ - on Sept. 21 where Cottage Grove was represented by not only their varsity squad, but also a sizable junior varsity contingent and a group of runners from Lincoln Middle School’s still-growing cross country team.
The Harrier’s Challenge course begins with a loop through Schwarz Park before heading up an exhaustingly steep incline to the top of the dam, hence the nickname and the cause of many frustrated words muttered by the runners as they reached the dam and saw the challenge before them.
“The hill is really tough, but luckily we’ve run this race before,” said sophomore Evie Smith after finishing the race.
Overall, 16 teams were represented, mostly from the southern Willamette Valley and northern Douglas County. The Cottage Grove varsity team consisted of four girls and six boys who all took on the challenging route.
For head coach Jim Settelmeyer, being able to race so close to home is always a special opportunity, not just for his runners, but for the community as a whole.
“There’s so many positives to doing this,” Settelmeyer said. “There are parents that are helping and they talk about how grateful everybody is for this stuff and then you look at it, because they’re smiling and they’re helping them celebrate whatever they did, the people along the schute are helping people out. So our community gets to help everybody. It’s a wonderful venue.”
To Settelmeyer’s delight, his push for team success is slowly but surely coming to fruition as the Lions boys squad finished fourth overall in the team competition, spurred along by top-20 finishes from both senior Jimmy Talley (2nd place, 17:42) and freshman Jaden Owens (16th, 18:42).
Owens - a product of the growing Lincoln Middle School cross country pipeline - was running in his first ever varsity race after running with junior varsity at his first race in Tillamook.
“This is his second meet he’s been able to join us … it’s a pretty easy decision to have him on varsity. His time at Ultimook was as fast as anybody’s in the other courses. He’s a very talented runner. His workouts have been real positive, he works hard. He belongs on the varsity team from now on,” said Settelmeyer.
On the girls’ side, despite solid results, the race didn’t exactly start as planned.
“We didn’t realize it was going to be our race until, like, ten minutes before the race. We thought the guys were going first so we had ten minutes to warm up. We were, like, ‘oh shoot!’ so we started warming up. It was kind of tough,” said sophomore Eternity Reimche who finished with a time of 23 minutes and 34 seconds, finishing 18th overall in the girls varsity 5k.
Other finishers for the boys included Jaden Thuesen (29th, 20:31); Andy Wiley (25th, 21:07); Maycol Pable Herrera (46th, 21:53); and Tyler Russell (57th, 23:18). For the girls, there was Evie Smith (21st, 23:39); Kajsa Merz (28th, 26:01); and Helen Leal-Coronel (40th, 27:56).
The Lions next race is Sat., Sept. 28 at the Nike Portland XC held at Blue Lake Park.