Outlaw pack aiming tight attack at Wildhorse, district meets

By Observer Upload October 19, 2012 01:30 pm

WILDHORSE — Some of the top 1A/2A/3A teams in Eastern Oregon will get a preview of their competition Friday when they compete at the Kyle Burnside Memorial Wildhorse Invitational.

While the Union/Cove runners seem to be on a fast track toward another state finals berth, it may be a lot closer for several other teams battling for the remaining district berth.

It may come down to just how close the fifth scoring runners are on each team to the rest of the top five.

For one team, a dramatic improvement in the time differential has paid off.

Elgin/Imbler was able to beat Blue Mountain Conference rival Enterprise in the Catherine Creek Invitational in mid-September.

While Enterprise’s David Ribich led the Outlaws with a second-place finish, the team had to settle for seventh place with 140 points.

Elgin, using a tighter pack finish, took fifth in the boys race with 118 points. The Elgin/Imbler co-op team actually put five runners in front of Austin Burns, Enterprise’s second finisher that day. Jonathan Sparks led the team with a 19th-place finish, while he was followed by Steven Flippo (23rd), Carson Reid (29th), Jonathan Flippo (31st) and Jason Palmer (32nd).

All five Huskies finished just 44 seconds apart.

There was a much larger time gap for the Outlaws — almost four minutes. Ribich finished the race in 18:25, but Burns finished 33rd — 2:13 behind. And the final Enterprise scorer, Alex Tyler (50th), was 3:35 behind Ribich.

In the next battle between the two BMC rivals, the Outlaws reversed the decision, with the Outlaws scoring 50 to Elgin’s 72 points in the Enterprise Invitational.

Running on their home course, the Outlaws put three finishers in the top 10 — and in front of the Huskies’ first runner. Ribich won the meet with a time of 17:30, followed by Burns (fifth, 19:24) and Tyler (seventh, 19:32).

This time, there was a 3:09 gap between Ribich and Enterprise’s fifth finisher, Yamamoto (22nd, 20:39). The big difference was putting three Outlaws in front of the first Husky runner — Sparks (11th, 19:51) — that proved too much for Elgin/Imbler to overcome.

In the Dry Side Shootout, Ribich won the meet in a course-record 16:08, but the time difference between himself and the team’s fifth runner shrank again. It dropped to 2:49 between Ribich and Yamamoto (eighth, 18:57.40).

In the race around the Eastern Oregon University athletic complex, Burns had to settle for fourth in 17:40, but he led two other Outlaws across the line to give Enterprise four of the top six finishers in the race.  

Tyler was fifth in 18:07.90, while Story placed sixth in 18:36.60. That also gave the Outlaws four runners ahead of McLoughlin’s top finisher, Cody Harmon (seventh, 18:52.80).

Harmon’s finish was just enough to ruin the Enterprise chances for getting a perfect score of 15 in the invitational.

But the Pioneers had no chance against Ribich. “He was determined to win,” said Enterprise coach Dan Moody after the meet. “It looked to me like we were a little faster in the first mile than we planned. In about two more weeks, we will be ready for it.”

Instead, Enterprise had to settle for just a 16-40 winning margin over the Pioneers.

Those two weeks will be up Friday at the Burnside/Wildhorse invite on the Wildhorse Golf Course near Pendleton. 

The golf course address is 46723 Wildhorse Boulevard and is located off Interstate 84.

At the Gutbuster in Milton-Freewater last week, the Outlaws broke the two-minute barrier in the difference between Ribich and Yamamoto, the team’s fifth runner. The two finished just 1:54 apart.

That was almost two minutes faster than earlier this season at the Scamper race outside of Union.

With Elgin, the team was short-handed at the Gutbuster, but still could put only one runner ahead of Enterprise’s third man, Tyler.

According to Elgin coach Kevin Lambert, the Huskies had come off several weeks of high-mileage workouts just before the Gutbuster meet.

“We were missing a few athletes due to injuries, sickness and other reasons and also facing a tough course,” Lambert said. “I tried to play down my athletes’ self expectations and encourage them just to run a good race.  But my concern was unfounded and they proved me wrong by running the best race of the season yet.” 

The boys squad had several seasonal and personal bests in the meet in Milton-Freewater, Lambert added. The Huskies were missing their second and third runners on the boys squad, but Reid, the number four runner, improved. 

“Reid stepped up and ran the first half of the race with our number one, John Sparks. Carson then held on to finish only 15 seconds behind Sparks, who ran a season-best time,” the coach said.

In 2011, Ribich finished second in the district championships and seventh in the state meet. As a team, Enterprise finished third in the district with 64 points, close behind Nyssa (60) and far behind Union (33). Elgin was fifth with 125 points.

Nyssa may not have the horses this season to grab second again. They lost Ryan Maag to graduation and have struggled this season. 

At the West Park meet in Nampa Oct. 10, the Bulldogs put three finishers in the top 30, but their fourth runner was 119th. 

The team’s top runner, junior Quentin Jensen, is back after missing all of September. The junior placed fifth overall in the West Park meet with a time of 17:31. The next Bulldogs to finish were freshman Jonathan Holcomb (17th, 18:31) and senior Greg Barlow (29th, 19:05).

The Bulldogs had a time difference between Jensen and their fifth runner of 7:31.

But Elgin and Enterprise will get one more shot at each other Friday in the Burnside/Wildhorse meet on the Wildhorse Golf Course.

The high school boys race will start at 3:45 p.m., following the girls varsity race at 3 p.m.

The district championships will be held Oct. 26 in Pendleton’s McKay Park. The boys varsity race will start at 3:30 p.m.