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Union/Cove’s McKenzie Evans, left, and Katriel O’Reilly ran the Vale Halftime Run together from start to finish to take the top two places Friday. (EMMA SHEEHY for The Observer)
Both the Union/Cove boys and girls cross country teams won state titles last year. But expectations for this season are high once again.
On the girls side, the Lady Cats return all of the scoring runners from last year’s state title team.
Leading the charge once against are Katriel O’Reilly, last year’s individual state champion, and McKenzie Evans, the runner-up a year ago.
“I feel very lucky to have these two girls on my team, especially having them both on the team at the same time,” 12th year Union/Cove head coach Steve Sheehy said. “We also have a very strong supporting cast.”
That supporting cast includes Stormy Bullard, Elly Wells, Lynn Shoemaker, Hannah Brazil and Sarah Brazil. Freshman Kathryn Sheehy is also joining the fold.
On the boys side, Union/Cove returns all of last year’s scoring runners except for Zach Wylie, who moved away.
But Sheehy is still confident in the group he has back.
Senior Ken Sipp, who was 10th at the state meet last year will, be one of the Bobcats’ leaders. Seniors Riley Sheehy, Daniel Colton, Cory Andrews, junior Ethan Black and sophomore Samuel O’Reilly will all add to Union/Cove’s firepower.
“We have quite a few newcomers, and some veterans with their eyes on improvement,” Sheehy said. “With 20 boys, I expect the competition for our seven boys varsity spots to be fierce.”
Sheehy knows his teams will be good this year, but he said he is waiting to find out how good they can be. One thing he does know, is that teams around the state and district will have their eyes on Union/Cove.
“After winning both the girls and boys state titles last year, we know that we have a very big target on our backs,” Sheehy said. “We also realize it will be very difficult to repeat what we did last year. We are trying to focus on doing the things that will give us a chance to do well again this season.”
Both Union/Cove teams will have competition within the district this season. The Enterprise boys are coming off a third-place finish at state last year.
The Outlaws return senior David Ribich, who placed second individually. Alex Tyler, Wil Story and Eric Schwendiman are all expected to help Enterprise this season.
Elgin is also a team that could threaten Union/Cove. The Huskies return Jason Palmer, Carson Reid, Jonathon Flippo and Jake Burgess to name a few.
On the girls side, the Outlaws bring back Natalie Reimer, Whitney Reimer, Dawn Mist Movich-Fields and Parker Spear. Elgin returns Autumn Wheeling, Janice Gawith and Hope Ritchie.
“On both the boys and girls sides, I believe that we compete in the toughest district in the state,” Sheehy said. “So many of the teams in our district have historically been competitive on the state level, which makes it very difficult to advance out of our district. I expect that the Nyssa and Vale girls will be good, as usual. On the boys side, Enterprise, Nyssa and Elgin should have good teams.”
Off to a good start
VALE — The Union/Cove boys and girls cross country teams started the season with a win at the Vale Halftime Run this weekend.
The Bobcats won both team titles, with the boys finishing with 29 points to beat out La Grande’s 47 points. The Lady Cats finished with 17 points, while Nyssa was second with 57 points. The LHS girls didn’t score as a team.
McKenzie Evans and Katriel O’Reilly both crossed the line in 10 minutes, 24 seconds for Union/Cove. Evans was named the official winner.
Elly Wells (10:51) and Stormy Bullard (10:52) finished fourth and fifth. Amanda Welch was the top finisher for La Grande, crossing the line in seventh place with a time of 11:18.
For the boys, Union/Cove’s Samuel O’Reilly finished in second place with a time of 10:44. La Grande’s Elliott Jonasson finished third (10:50), Union/Cove’s Riley Sheehy placed fourth (10:51) and La Grande’s Todd Keniry rounded out the top five (10:54).