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Unionís Elly Wells (left) and Lynn Shoemaker (right) run together during the Oxford Classic Friday in Bend. The Lady Cats finished in fifth place with 121 points. Submitted photo
BEND — Even shorthanded, the Lady Cats made a big splash in the Oxford Classic cross country invitational at Drake Park Friday.
Coach Steve Sheehy moved his top two runners into the elite race, pushing sophomore Stormy Bullard into the lead role for Union.
She responded to the challenge by taking 18th overall in 21:15 and leading Union into a fifth place finish amongst some of the top teams in the Pacific Northwest.
The Lady Cats finished with 121 points, just 20 points behind the team Sheehy considers to be the Lady Cat’s biggest foe when they get to the state meet this year.
Two Idaho teams, Borah and Centennial, grabbed the first two team spots with 44 and 54 points, respectively.
Summit finished third with 83 points, followed by Valley Catholic with 101. South Medford was sixth with 189, followed by Crook County (189), Ridgeview (194) and Nampa Christian (Idaho) was ninth with 223 points.
Sarah Christianson of Borah (Idaho) won the race in 19:21.4, followed by two other Idaho runners, Emily Coleman of Centennial (19:39.8) in second and Jessica Horrocks, of Centennial (19:56.8) in third.
Valley Catholic was led by the sixth-place finish of Josephine Chau in 20:03.5, followed by freshman teammate Maricela Jaroch in 20:34.8 in 15th place.
However, right after Bullard, the Lady Cats had Lynn Shoemaker taking 26th overall in 21:46, dropping her seasonal best time by more than a minute. Hannah and Sarah Brazil came in together, with Hannah placing 28th (21:56) and Sarah taking 29th (21:58).
Both runners set personal bests in the race, with Hannah Brazil slicing two seconds off, but her sister chopping 92 second off her previous best time.
Freshman Elly Wells came in 34th with a time of 22:11, dropping her best time by 22 seconds. Morgan Reddington was 40th in 22:48, beating her previous best by 82 seconds, while Kendra Hackwith was 46th (23:11) and dropped her time by 55 seconds.
“We got to compete against Valley Catholic, who was the top-ranked girls team according to Athletic.net’s hypothetical ranking,” Sheehy said after the meet.
“We knew that Valley Catholic was a very good team on paper and they looked even better in real life. They are a very good team,” stressed the coach.
Still, Sheehy split off the top two runners on the team to put them in the elite division race.
Katriel O’Reilly’s time in the elite race would have won the girls division race her teammates were in, and McKenzie Evans had a faster time than the third-place finisher.
“We won’t see Valley Catholic again until the state meet on Nov. 3. It looks to be a very close race,” Sheehy added.
Even shorthanded, the Union squad impressed Sheehy. “Juniors Lynn and Hannah provided excellent leadership while leading the team in an inspired race against Valley Catholic. They really provided some good leadership in an intimidating environment.
“They wanted to make a statement. I think they succeeded,” said Sheehy.
“Stormy led the team across the line in 18th, followed by a very tight group of Shoemaker, Hannah and Sarah Brazil and Elly.
“Morgan and Kendra also ran great, with Kendra finishing right behind Valley Catholic’s number seven.”
In the junior varsity girls race, Alexandra Griffith took 15th place with a time of 23:44.9, followed by Josey Koehn (21st, 24:26.8) and Molly DelCurto (65th, 32:42.1).
Union’s top cats get taste of elite racers
BEND — Katriel O’Reilly narrowly missed out on a third-place finish in one of the top cross country invitationals in the Pacific Northwest Friday.
Competing in the elite girls race with teammate McKenzie Evans as individuals, the two top runners at Union High School met some of the best runners from California, Idaho and Nevada and beat most of them.
O’Reilly ran one her best tactical races of her career, according to coach Steve Sheehy. “She narrowly lost to Bend High School’s number one runner Jenna Mattox at the finish line. Mattox surged a couple of times during the race, but Katriel covered each surge and was beaten to the finish line by only a couple of steps.”
According to Sheehy, O’Reilly’s time equalled her personal best and the record at Union High School. It also was her seasonal best by 37 seconds.
“McKenzie also ran in the elite race and ran a very courageous and gutty race, despite not feeling at her best,” Sheehy said. “She ran a 19:50, which is the second-fastest time of her career.
“Both of the girls looked very, very good.”
Evans had a seasonal best time by 33 seconds Friday.
Summit-Bend and Klamath Union tied with 57 points for the elite race team crown, while Bend followed with 76 and Mountain View had 83. Hood River Valley was fifth with 126 points, while Damonte Ranch of Nevada came in next with 142. Phoenix was seventh with 148 points.
Klamath Union’s Ashley Luna won the race in 18:40, followed by Piper McDonald of Summit (18:53.7) and Mattox (19:02.9).
Stephanie Croy of Cascade Christian was 10th in 19:36.1, just 14 seconds in front of Evans.
Union will be traveling to Weston-McEwen for the Eastern Oregon 2A/1A invitational race.