Cottage Grove XC makes school history

Warriors and Bulldogs look for state qualifiers

November 2 - For the first time in Cottage Grove High School (CGHS) history, the Cottage Grove boys and girls cross country teams are heading to the state championships together. The teams will look for a state trophy at Lane Community College (LCC) this Saturday, Nov. 5.

The Lions boys’ team took home the Sky-Em League District Championship after finishing above Marshfield and Marist, who tied for second place.

“On the boy’s side, we were ranked 3rd coming in, so we had a team meeting yesterday and talked about how we thought the other teams would go out. We predicted that they would go out hot and it unfolded exactly how we thought. Marshfield and Marist went really fast, and our guys ran exactly as they should in the first mile, then they moved up, and boy was it close. We thought it would be close, between second and third (place), and to see that we moved up enough to win is a pretty big surprise,” Lions Coach Ricky Knutson said.

In the 5,000-meter race, the Lions were led by senior Jaden Owens, who finished 2nd in the race with a time of 16:28.50. Lions sophomore Carter Bengtson finished 3rd with a time of 16:41.15.

“We’ve always had pretty strong performances for Jaden and Carter, but Kobi (Prenevost), Brennen (Murphy) and Wyatt (Pepiot) came through huge today. That’s how a team wins: five guys have to come together. They did it today,” Knutson said.

Sophomore Prenevost finished 7th for the Lions boys with a time of 18:04.70, senior Murphy took 10th at 18:16.49, and Pepiot finished at 18:36.23, good for 16th in the 35-man race. Senior Tyler Russell had a time of 19:26.80 and junior Brycen Cameron concluded the day at 19:29.97.

For the Cottage Grove girls, it was equally a big day. The team finished second in districts and qualified for state for the first time in 14 years and only the second time since 1981. It is the first time in school history that both the boys’ and girls’ teams qualified for the state championships in the same season.

The Lions girls team finished behind Junction City, who took first place as a team. North Bend finished third while Marist finished last.

“We knew on the girls side that Junction City was going to be the favorite and that they are strong. We’d have to run a perfect race and they would have to falter in order for us to be there; they were awesome. Our girls were tough and fought North Bend for that second place spot. I know our girls really wanted to win, but we want to make sure they are holding their heads high because they’ve accomplished something that not many girls’ teams have done at our school. It’s a pretty awesome day for them,” Knutson said.

The Lions girls team saw excellent leadership from sophomores Allison Palluck, who finished 7th with a time of 22:12.93, and Bella Keating, who ended with a time of 22:24.20. The Lions also saw big time contributions from freshmen Jordynn Owens who finished 11th at 22:48.26 and Ella Cardwell at 12th place with a 22:57.20 time. Freshman Zoey Knutson had a time of 23:30.18, freshman Nora Heegard ended at 26:09.07, and junior Molly Rhoton came in at 26:40.17 in the 5,000-meter race.

Earlier in the day, the North Douglas Warriors cross country team had their eyes set on qualifying a few runners for the state championships. The Warrior boys did not have enough runners to qualify as a team, so they were relying on individual performance to help guide them to state.

North Douglas finished with two runners in the top 10, with senior Logan Gant qualifying for state after finishing 7th with a time of 18:36.73.

According to North Douglas Coach Judith Burnett, “(Gant) is one of the reasons our program got restarted. We had a very talented young man who came on four years ago as a freshman and who we thought was going to be a great runner. It’s been four years waiting through COVID and everything for this to happen, so it’s well deserved. He’s put in the work.”

Junior Wyatt Humphrey just missed out on qualifying after finishing 8th with a time of 18:45.46. Freshman Elijah Vanderpool finished at 20:24.41 and sophomore Jacob Parsons had a time of 20:57.76.

The North Douglas girls team finished in 5th place, and were the first 1A school to cross the finish line in a race that also featured 3A and 2A schools. Senior Mia Piscopo led the Warriors with a time of 22:16.61. Junior Natalie Hescock came in at 23:27.64, senior Lolly Frost had a time of 25:04.50, sophomore Savea Leholm came in at 25:16.75, and junior Mariam Vanderpool had a time of 25:58.41.

For the Creswell Bulldogs, the girls’ team had just three runners and were led by freshman Mattilyn Nelson, who came in at 22:47.53, good for 24th in the 90-person race. Freshman Kaylee Gardner came in just behind her with a time of 22:47.86, and sophomore Brooke Moehlmann finished at 22:51.40.

The Bulldogs boys, who had four runners, saw junior Carson Williamson finish 14th with a time of 19:18.85. Junior Jaden Peek took 16th at 19:25.17, Senior Chris Culp finished at 21:51.54, and freshman Connor Nguyen came in with a time of 22:56.43.

 “We didn’t have a full team on either side this year unfortunately, so we were aiming for top seven, which qualifies for state,” Creswell Coach Jonathan Ferguson said. “We weren’t worried about what the time said at the end, we were just going for a place and we did our best. We’ll have more kids coming in next year. They are young kids but they are all getting better and willing to put in the hard work. That’s what it takes to be a good team.”

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