The Union Bobcats filled out the podium at the Class 3A/2A/1A state meet Saturday in Eugene. McKenzie Evans and Katriel O’Reilly finished first and second, respectively. Elly Wells came in sixth overall, and Stormy Bullard finished eighth.
Union girls cross country cruises to a three-peat
EUGENE — The Union girls cross country team made it three in a row Saturday, capturing the 3A/2A/1A girls state championship at Lane Community College in Eugene.
The Bobcats finished with 35 points to easily finish ahead of St. Mary’s (108) and Creswell (137).
Union not only won the state title, but did it while smashing state records. The Bobcats set the modern state team scoring mark with 35 points, beating out Oakridge’s score of 44 set in 1997.
Union seniors McKenzie Evans and Katriel O’Reilly repeated their 1-2 finish from a year ago, though it was Evans crossing the finish line first on Saturday. Evans crossed the finish line in 18 minutes, 42 seconds ahead of O’Reilly, the 2012 state champion, who finished next in 19:03.
“It’s incredible, amazing,” Evans said. “We have four seniors and we wanted to run a really great race and everyone did.”
Evans broke the state individual record held by Ashley Baldovino of Lakeview. Evans beat out Baldovino’s time by 5 seconds.
“Those kids really earned it by putting in the miles in the winter and summer,” Steve Sheehy said. “They make it look easy, but it ain’t easy. To get to that level you got to do the work.”
Enterprise’s Isabelle Tingelstad made her first appearance at the state meet as a freshman. This year’s experience will help her in the year’s to come. “I could have gone faster,” she said.
Tingelstad placed 21st with a time of 21:04.
On the boys side, Enterprise’s David Ribich led from start to finish, covering the 5,000-meter course in 15:58. The senior had finished second a year ago and also was the runner-up in the Class 2A 3,000 meters last spring.
Coming off a second-place finish last year, Ribich has had the top spot in mind ever since — and even longer.
He started running cross country in seventh grade and has had an eye on Krista Stangel’s state champion banner in the Enterprise High School gym. With victories on the state course in 2003 and 2004, Stangel went on to run for Oregon State University.
Stangel not only inspires Ribich, but is a great supporter. Stangel had some words of advice for him before the race.
“Having her motivate me with encouraging words helped, like saying ‘Everything will play out how it should and you’ll do great.’ She calmed down my nerves and made it easier on me to stay relaxed during the race.”
Ribich wasn’t without competition. He held a slim lead after the first and second mile in front of Zach Bellew of Creswell and Sisay Gillock of Portland Christian.
“Once the gun went off I noticed Zach Bellew and Sisay Gillock were on my shoulders pushing alongside me. After the first mile Zach said, ‘That was a fast first mile.’ I felt good and strong and picked up the pace after the first mile - and he stuck with me coming out of the ponds. This is where Krista lost her opponents. I knew if I didn’t lose him then it would be a sprint race and I can’t sprint.”
But what he can do is run hills and was able to drop Bellew on the final incline on the course.
“(Coach Dan) Moody puts it (hill training) in our blood and bones,” said Ribich.
Moody, who has coached Ribich for six years said, “I am speechless. What a fantastic day. This is something he started working on when he got second last year.”
Not only did Ribich win the race, but took approximately 22 seconds off last year’s time on the course to finish in 15:58.
In the team chase, Riley Sheehy and Kenneth Sipp both posted top-20 finishes to lead Union to a second-place finish.
Valley Catholic won the team championship with 74 points, followed by Union with 104.