EUGENE — Oh, how close the Enterprise Outlaws were to becoming cross country state champions.
A matter of seconds. Just a few points. Just a couple places.
And yet while they barely missed out, all signs point to a great future, especially for the boys program.
The Enterprise boys took second in the Class 3A boys meet Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene, scoring 54 points, just two points behind Burns. The girls, likewise, were second in the 3A/2A/1A girls meet with 75 points, edged out by Catlin Gabel, which scored 71 points.
“The kids ran like they expected to,” Enterprise Head Coach Dan Moody said. “(It) seems like they always rise to the occasion (at state). That’s what we gear for. They stepped up really well.”
The EHS boys were led by a trio of freshmen and paced by a 2-3 finish from Henry Coughlan (16:33) and Zac Knapp (16:49). Coughlan, in fact, was just two seconds behind the race winner, Emmett Klus of Burns.
“I’m happy,” Coughlan said. “I was really hoping my team did well. We had three freshmen in the top 10.”
The third freshman was Bayden Menton, who was ninth with a time of 17:20. Cole Gomes (18:09), who took 22nd, and Reece Nelson (18:33), who was 30th, rounded out Enterprise’s top five.
“I thought they ran with a lot of confidence for as young as they are,” Moody said. “All the kids handled the situation really well. Not one of the boys had run there before, and they all stepped up. They all had great races. I was really proud of how they ended up.”
How close were the Outlaws to taking the title? Flip Coughlan and Klus at the top, and the teams would have had equal scores, and Enterprise would have claimed first based on the highest-sixth-place-runner tiebreaker. Gomes was one second shy of 20th, which would have moved EHS up to first. Nelson was also two seconds away from 28th and moving the team to the top.
“I don’t think people realize how tight the scores can be in cross country,” Moody said, recalling the 2001 state meet when a couple Enterprise runners were passed in the final meters of the race, which dropped the Outlaws to third, one point away from a three-way tie for first and two points shy of a state title.
But the potential ahead for Moody and the Outlaws is sky-high, given there are no seniors. He said many of the runners are already looking ahead to the 2019 season.
“Being second and knowing everyone is going to be back has us pumped already for next year,” he said.
The girls, meanwhile, continued their own solid run near the top of the state rankings. While Enterprise missed out on repeating as state champions, the finish extends what is now a five-year stretch in the top four: fourth in 2014, third in 2015, second in 2016, first in 2017 and second this year.
“That’s a pretty darn good run within that timespan,” Moody said. “That’s a pretty good tradition, and (we’re) keeping it going.”
The Outlaws had a pair of top 10 runners in fifth-place: Ellyse Tingelstad (19:42) and 10th-place Kyla Hook (20:10). They had two more runners in the top 20, with Ella Coughlan (20:21) taking 13th and Ashley Wilson (20:39) coming in 20th.
Hook said the team goal was “just to work together and do the best we could.”
Sydney Rouse rounded out the top five Outlaw runners in 35th with a time of 21:37.
Moody said the team set its sights on topping Burns, who had won the Special District 3 meet a week ago. The Outlaws did that, as Burns finished third with 85 points. He admitted, though, the team may have overlooked Catlin Gabel.
“(We were) emphasizing Burns, wanting to get them,” he said. “They did what we set out to do. Catlin ran a great race.”
He pointed out, though, that this year’s team would have defeated last year’s title team based on time. Indeed, of Enterprise’s top four runners — who were also the Outlaws’ top four a year ago — three ran faster times.
“The girls’ times are just getting better,” he said.
The Outlaw girls are in position for a strong 2019 as well, with four of their top six runners set to return.
John Gunther of The World newspaper in Coos Bay contributed to this report.