Champs show character

Written by Observer editorial reports November 08, 2013 08:12 am

Winning one cross country state title is amazing. Winning a second in a row, with a target on your back, is a great accomplishment. The pressure continues to grow. Oregon is a big state, and there is a lot of competition.

Eugene, after all, is known as the running capital of the world, and that enthusiasm spreads from colleges to high schools to the population as a whole.

But winning three state titles in a row? The Union girls cross country team did just that Saturday, capturing the 3A/2A/1A girls state championship at Lane Community College in Eugene.

Coach Steve Sheehy’s Bobcats, showing an abundance of talent and character, finished with 35 points to outpace St. Mary’s (108) and Creswell (137).

In doing so, the Bobcats set the modern state team scoring mark with 35 points, bettering Oakridge’s score of 44 set in 1997.

Union seniors McKenzie Evans and Katriel O’Reilly held the Bobcat banner high, making their hometown and all of Northeast Oregon proud. They repeated their 1-2 finish from a year ago. This year, however, Evans crossed the finish line first in 18 minutes, 42 seconds, ahead of O’Reilly, the 2012 state champion, who finished next in 19:03.

Evans also broke the state individual record held by Ashley Baldovino of Lakeview by 5 seconds.

On the boys side, Enterprise senior David Ribich led from start to finish, covering the 5,000-meter course in 15:58 to win the 3A/2A/1A state individual title. Ribich had extra motivation. He had finished second a year ago.

In the boys team chase, Riley Sheehy and Kenneth Sipp both posted top-20 finishes to lead Union to a second-place finish.

Many think of cross country as an individual sport. Union, both boys and girls, show it is a team sport that requires hard work all year long. Everyone on the team contributes to the overall success.

Cross country also requires smart work, good coaching, the ability to know how much to train but not to overtrain. Eating right. Sleeping right. A lot of elements go into success.

Winning once, said John Wooden, the late basketball coach who led UCLA to 10 national titles, takes talent. Winning again takes character. Union cross country, thanks to the efforts of Sheehy and his assistants, and to the support of the community, has shown tremendous character.

Lots can go wrong in a quest for a state championship. Overtraining can lead to injuries. Winning can lead to complacency. The state championships are held in early November, the start of cold and flu season, and runners must also guard their health.

Lots has to go right. Union made it happen. They worked smart to be ready to claim a third straight state title. 

Congratulations to the Union girls and boys teams and Ribich for their great accomplishments.