It’s an exciting year for fans of Cottage Grove boys’ and girls’ cross country and last Saturday gave the teams an early glimpse of a course they hope to revisit at the end of the season.
The Northwest Classic at Lane Community College (LCC) featured 33 boys’ teams and 32 girls’ teams from high schools across Oregon, Washington and California. The still-nascent Cottage Grove team - with a bevy of underclassmen runners looking to carry the program into the future - acquitted themselves well, taking 12 varsity boys and girls competitors to the course that will be the future venue for the district and state championships later this fall.
With relatively flat terrain, the LCC course gave the team an opportunity to set fast times while also prepping for future competitions.
“When you’re mostly running hilly courses that challenge your strength and are more like building strength and endurance, then you come out here and you run something like this, all of a sudden it’s kind of a shock. There isn’t a lot to challenge you physically other than your speed and 3.1 miles. So, this was a fun way to look ahead and we’ll have some real things we can talk about goal-wise,” said head coach Jim Settelmeyer.
“This was, for the people who ran it, pretty darn close to how fast they can run at this point in time, no matter what the course. And we’ll now see if we can chop away. [Personal records] are meaningful now.”
In total, the Lions trotted out seven male and five female competitors, nine of whom are underclassmen.
Unsurprisingly, senior Jimmy Talley carried the torch, finishing second overall in the varsity 5k - a race that included 1A, 2A, 3A and 4A schools - with a time of 16:24.80. He was only seven seconds back of race winner John Peckham from Sisters.
However, the other large takeaway from this event was the growing team success and team culture that Coach Settelmeyer is trying to instill in his runners.
“There was an activity we did yesterday that got me maybe more excited than this meet. We went and helped with Cycle Oregon and the team banded together. They were shoulder to shoulder and they were with teammates they’d never get a chance to work with and practice with, all the different abilities and paces,” said Settelmeyer in regards to his team’s growing camaraderie.
“With the mission of helping kids grow as teammates, runners, citizens and just going forward I saw a real maturity in some younger runners that it’s hard to show out on the running field.”
Additionally on the boys’ side, junior Jaden Thuesen (18:59.80, 76th) achieved a top-100 finish while the girls’ team saw three such finishes: sophomore Eternity Reimche (21:58.37, 33rd), sophomore Evie Smith (22:27.46, 43rd) and sophomore Kajsa Merz (25:33.46, 89th).
Senior leader Nadia Witt, despite her protestations, was removed from the race on the first lap of the 5k course.
Cottage Grove cross country will look to continue their steady growth this weekend at their first home meet, the Harrier’s Challenge, on Sat., Sept. 21 beginning at 10 a.m. at Schwarz Park.