November 03, 2002 11:00 pm

The La Grande cross country boys had something they wanted to prove at the state meet Friday, and boy, did they.

The La Grande boys finished ninth in the state at the Class 3A meet in Eugene. Dane Johnson, who led the team by finishing fifth, said that on the night before the race the team members talked about how La Grande never got a single top ten poll vote all year.

"Our goal was to show those coaches they were wrong," he said. The Tigers did just that by finishing ninth out of the 16 teams at the meet.

Coach Ian Schroeder, who probably will not be back next year as he concentrates on running for the Eastern Oregon varsity, said, "our goal was to crack the top ten. That's exactly what we did. Most of our guys ran personal bests. I was extremely pleased with how they did. They were extremely pleased too, and rightfully so."

Schroeder said this was the boys' first trip to state since 1982. The La Grande girls made their first-ever trip to state and finished 14th.

Johnson, who went through one stretch this season with seven straight wins, was happy with fifth place against the top runners from around the state. He is just a junior and will be back next year, probably stronger and faster. "(Fifth place) was right where I wanted to be," he said.

Johnson said the boys at state were the fastest he had ever seen. Running with such strong competition just helped make him faster, he said. "That was the fastest first mile I raced all year. You need people to push yourself against," he said.

Schroeder said the rest of the state "better watch out" for Johnson next season.

"He really learned how to race this year. He'll come back next year and he's going to do some damage."

Schroeder said this was a particularly fast race because it was dry and cool. Usually in Eugene in November, it's wet, and the race course is muddy.

Johnson finished in a time of 16 minutes, 29 seconds, only 26 seconds out of first. The top three positions all went to runners from Phoenix (though Phoenix finished just fourth overall).

La Grande's Travis Dixon had a strong race, finishing 14th with a time of 16:48. Leif Bullock finished 42nd with a time of 17:38, Kyle Troutman 94th with a time of 18:40, Chris Bond 101st with a time of 18:50, Drew Kelly 113th with a time of 19:05 and Weston Simonis 125th with a time of 20:03.

For the girls, Schroeder said Alexis Baum wasn't able to finish. She complained that she was having trouble seeing, and then she fell. She got back up and tried to keep racing, but race officials wouldn't allow her to continue.

Schroeder said Baum seems to be fine now, but she was disappointed that she wasn't able to cross the finish line.

The girls were led by Jessica Fulfer, who finished 23rd with a time of 20:46. Kayla Arritola finished 60th with a time of 21:56, Malia Anderson 79th (23:01), Colleen Barker 103rd (24:21) and Kayleen Chamberlain 110th (25:23).

The Baker girls won the state championship.

— Pierre LaBossire

3A State Championships

Lane Community College, Eugene



1, Wilsonville 97; 2, Philomath 111; 3, Siuslaw 120; 4, Phoenix 124; 5, Elmira 133; 6, Molalla 176; 7, Sisters 178; 8, Astoria 186; 9, La Grande 199; 10, Vale 214; 11, Rogue River 237; 12, Valley Catholic 295; 13, North Bend 316; 14, Scappoose 337; 15, South Umpqua 380; 16, Central 386.

3A State Championships

Lane Community College, Eugene



1, Baker 65; 2, Sisters 96; 3, Sherwood 109; 4, Wilsonville 172; 5, Rogue River 187; 6, Mazama 193; 7, Elmira 194; 8, North Bend 215; 9, Molalla 215; 10, Astoria 235; 11, Scappoose 243; 12, Philomath 265; 13, Marist 283; 14, La Grande 289; 15, Taft, 313.