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Enterprise’s David Ribich won the Enterprise Invitational for the fourth time Friday. (Katy Nesbitt/The Observer)
ENTERPRISE — Some things in Northeast Oregon cross country running are as easy to predict as the time of the sunset.
For the fourth year in a row, Enterprise senior David Ribich won his team’s invitational meet with a time of 17 minutes, 22 seconds, nearly a minute ahead of second.
The course, however, according to Union-Cove coach Steve Sheehy, isn’t always the same.
Sheehy’s girls team dominated their race and his boys edged out La Grande by seven points.
An emotional Ribich ran his sixth and final race, at Alpine Meadows Golf Course in Enterprise Friday afternoon, terrain he has mastered since seventh grade.
“It’s tough being a senior today. I wanted it more than ever — to have freshman-through-senior victories at our home meet,” Ribich said.
Ribich is coming off a personal best of 16 minutes, 8 seconds at last week’s Bob Firman invite in Boise, Idaho, where a competitor hung on his shoulder most of the race and outkicked him at the finish.
For the state meet, he’s looking to break 16 minutes.
In the past, Ribich has led the pack, yet always broke away for the win.
Friday, no one could touch the determined Ribich from the starting gun.
But victories are short and the district and state meets mere weeks away.
“Union did well, as well as our boys. It’s going to be a battle at districts,” Ribich said.
“Ribich has a goal in mind — he wants to be the state champion, a very makeable goal,” Enterprise Coach Dan Moody said.
Sheehy, whose teams have been state contenders for years, said getting the kids to group up was part of their strategy — which worked well as his girls came in first, second, third, fifth, seventh, eighth and 10th. In the boys race, his top runners came in third, fourth, fifth, sixth, ninth and 10th.
McKenzie Evans tied for second in 22:12 with Union-Cove teammate Katriel O’Reilly, one second behind teammate Elly Wells.
“We tried to stay together, at least for the first mile,” Evans said.
According to O’Reilly, taking state is their team’s goal.
The cool, cloudy weather was atypical for this race, always the last Friday of September, but the racers didn’t mind.
Lynn Shoemaker of Union said, “It was perfect weather to run in.”
For the boys, the top four Union-Cove runners came in together in a tight pack as well, with Riley Sheehy fourth in 18:45, Ethan Black fifth in 18:49, Samuel O’Reilly sixth in 18:56 and Kenneth Sipp seventh in 19:05.
Sheehy brings his kids to Enterprise every year for the invitational.
“This is a good meet — kind of open for them to group up and experiment. We love coming to Enterprise. The course is beautiful and Moody always does something different.”
Times weren’t fast on the course, despite cool temperatures, which may have something to do with an ever shifting course.
“The course was a little longer this year and it has a couple hills,” Moody said.
Next week, the Union-Cove team will try something brand new, racing in a Yakima invitational where the top kid from each school races with the other top runners, the second best kids race in the second flight, and so on. Sheehy said it’s going to be a long day of racing.
“The Sun Fair is a new meet for them — a big invitational with two nationally ranked girls,” Sheehy said.
Amanda Welch of La Grande came in fourth behind the three-pack of Union-Cove girls in a time of 22:20.
“I feel like I could have run faster, but all the hard training has helped us with the hills,” Welch, a junior, said.
Welch said hill training has primarily been at Inlow Hall on the campus of Eastern Oregon University and at Deal Canyon outside of La Grande.
Speed training for the team is in the form of something dubbed “Georgetowns” — a series of 400-meter runs at consistent times.
Welch said they try to pair up during training with other runners near their level, and the team element comes into play for La Grande as well.
“We don’t stop to drink if the whole team doesn’t stop to drink,” Welch said.
“We have been working really hard and have seen a lot of improvement, especially with Jackie (Wanta), Hayley (Crews) and Grace (Ridder). We’ve been running a lot of hills and gone on longer, harder runs,” Talia Welch, assistant coach for La Grande, said,
The top two Tiger boys Friday afternoon were juniors Todd Keniry and Elliott Jonasson.
Keniry edged out Jonasson in a photo finish by one second — Keniry finished in 18:13 and Jonasson in 18:14.
Talia Welch said Keniry is new to the team and he and Jonasson are pushing each other.
With two freshmen and two sophomores the team is building up its experience.
“We’ve got some boys who are really coming up good and strong,” Welch said.