Union cross country teams soar at state

Written by Observer editorial reports November 11, 2011 07:37 pm
Few sports express the concept “united but individual” quite like cross country. A runner gets no help through the final grueling 1,000 meters of a race. She’s out there all alone —  and yet she’s still a part of a team that wears the same colors, and races toward a common goal. Kudos to the Katriel O’Reilly-led Union Bobcats, who won the Oregon Class 3A/2A/1A girls state cross country title Saturday at Lane Community College, Eugene.

Individually and together, the girls in red and white reached down into themselves and found all the heart they needed to capture the first place team trophy. It was a resounding victory at that. They finished with a combined 80 points, 44 up on the second place Catlin Gabel.
O’Reilly’s been called one of the best high school cross country runners in Oregon, and no one had a reason to doubt the statement Saturday. The sophomore gave her all in the season finale, battling to the wire with Olivia Powell, a frosh runner from Creswell.

It was the kind of race cross country fans everywhere dream of seeing, a 5,000-meter runners’ duel that isn’t decided till the last few heartbreaking strides.

Powell edged O’Reilly for the individual crown by a mere seven seconds. But on came O’Reilly’s teammate McKenzie Evans, surging into third place with 2,000 meters to go, and holding it the rest of the way. The efforts of O’Reilly and Evans were key in securing the team title.

Other Lady Bobcats competing Saturday included Stormy Bullard, Kathryn Hepler, Alexandra Griffiths and Hannah Brazil. They all ran hard, as they have the entire season. The combined effort added up to the Lady Bobcats’ ninth state title. That ties them with Jesuit of Beaverton for the record for the most state titles won. What a tradition!

Even though it might not have been quite so spectacular, let’s not forget that Bobcat boys pulled off a third place team finish in their state race.

Longtime Union Coach Steve Sheehy recalls the day as the best in his career, the first time since he’s been coaching that one team has won the championship and another a trophy.

For Union girls and boys both, cross country 2011 was a season to remember. These young runners more than lived up to expectations, and gave all of Union County a reason to feel proud.