By Pierre LaBossire
Observer Staff Writer
It was bittersweet, stressful and tight to the very end, but the Union cross country girls came through with their third straight 1A/2A state championship in Eugene Saturday.
It was stressful because the Union girls and their coach all said they didn't think they had actually won. Coach Steve Sheehy was nervous about a couple of strong teams from southwestern Oregon in Bandon and Myrtle Point.
"It was really scary. We really wanted to do well," said senior Ashley Sharratt, who finished 11th in her last race for Union cross country.
After the race, the girls all thought Bandon had edged them out. But, when the final results were announced, Bandon had 103 points, and Union 97.
"I was really surprised. I thought they (Bandon) had beat us. I was really relieved," said Sharratt.
"I didn't think we were going to get it. We were ecstatic," said fellow senior Shannon Mitchell., who finished eighth. "It hasn't sunk in my head yet."
"It was very stressful. It was anyone's race. It could have gone either way," said Shauna Nelson, who finished 21st.
Not only was it the girls' third straight state championship, it was their eighth state title since 1985. It was also the 14th straight year the girls have sent a team to state.
Sheehy and the Union girls give a lot of credit to Nelson for helping the Bobcats win this year. She is from North Powder and Powder Valley doesn't have a cross country program anymore, so Sharratt, whom she befriended through track, convinced her to run for Union.
"That was really big. We wouldn't have been able to do it without her," Sharratt said. "Both (Sheehy) and I pestered her a lot" to join the team.
Sharratt said her mother, who works in North Powder, also went to work on Nelson, and Nelson finally agreed to join.
Nelson said she was glad she joined the team. She is an individual state track champion and won a team state track championship with Powder Valley, but cross country takes more teamwork than track, she said.
"Something I learned this year is that everyone on the team counts. I came out of it with really close friends. It's something I'll never forget," she said.
Sheehy also gave a lot of credit to the Bobcats' fourth- and fifth-place runners, Kara Baxter (23rd) and Krystal Papineau (58th), because both girls have been fighting painful shin splints (stress fractures) all season. Sheehy said that after all their races and practices, they have had to ice down their ankles to keep the pain and swelling down.
"Both of them have worked really hard and pushed through a lot of pain," said Sharratt.
After winning the meet, the Union girls had a quiet ride home partly because they were tired, and partly because it was sinking in that for the seniors such as Sharratt, Mitchell and Nelson, this was the end of the road. After the long bus ride, the girls were treated to a parade through Union.
Mitchell, who has been in all three state championship parades (along with Sharratt), and finished in the top 10 at state for the Bobcats four straight years, said she never gets tired of it.
"It gets better every year. This was the best year," she said. "I can't believe it's already my senior year. I don't want it to end."
"It's sad. It was my last and my first," said Nelson.
Sheehy said the girls will get together a few more times for awards banquets and other get-togethers.
"We won't quit this cross country thing cold turkey," he said.
The Union boys didn't send a full team to state, but they did have three runners who finished in the top 40. Billy Garrison finished 20th, Klamath Walker 24th and Bren Sheehy 40th.