BAKER CITY — The skies were pure blue but the dominant colors at the Greater Oregon League cross country meet Friday afternoon were the purple and gold of Baker High School.
The Bulldogs ran away with the meet on the hilly, difficult course at Quail Ridge Golf Course, pulling off a complete sweep.
Baker won the girls and boys team titles, paced by individual winners Sydney Keller and Kale Cassidy. Cassidy, a senior, won his third straight district title.
La Grande, despite missing its top girls runner, Jacki Martini, finished second in both the girls and boys races, giving the Tigers a berth at the state meet as well.
Both Baker and La Grande will compete at the Class 4A state meet Saturday at Eugene’s Lane Community College.
On the boys side, La Grande nipped third-place Ontario by a single point.
Keller was excited after winning her first district title in a time of 20:17.
“That was my goal from the beginning,” she said. “I’m just happy that the team is going (to state) together.”
But her joy was tinged with sadness due to the absence of Martini, who became ill the night before the race and wasn’t able to compete.
“I was expecting Jacki to be here,” Keller said.
Runner-up Maia Vandervlugt of La Grande finished at 20:56, 39 seconds back.
Vandervlugt, a senior, said Martini’s falling ill the night before the meet “shook up our team a little bit.”
“But we still came out and did what we set out to do,” Vandervlugt said, referring to the Tigers finishing second and qualifying for the state meet.
Vandervlugt, who won the district title as a sophomore and has now finished second three times, said she actually considered focusing on theater this fall rather than competing in cross-country.
After her runner-up finish Friday, she said she’s glad she decided to run in her final year in high school.
“I felt really good,” she said with a smile. “I was not expecting to get second today.”
La Grande easily outdistanced third-place Mac-Hi, with 40 points to the Pioneers’ 77.
The Tigers’ Corbyn Sexton placed 4th in 21:14, and Audrey Garlitz was the third La Grande runner in top 10, finishing 9th in 23:14.
Gladys Alf Rippee (24:29) and Anne Sweet (24:35) finished 12th and 13th to round out La Grande’s top five.
In the boys race Cassidy, like Keller, took the lead early and was never threatened.
He finished in 16:13, 30 seconds ahead of Ontario’s Lance Trees.
Cristian Mendoza and teammate Braxton Bisenius led La Grande by finishing sixth and seventh, respectively.
Mendoza, who finished in 17:30, four seconds ahead of Bisenius, said although he’s pleased that La Grande finished second as a team to advance to the Class 4A meet, he wasn’t satisfied with his own performance.
“I’m not too happy,” Mendoza said. “I didn’t have my best race.”
Donald Sweet finished in 17:59 to take 11th for La Grande. Two freshmen — Caleb Murie (18:10) and Dima McCarthy (19:43) placed 14th and 18th to round out the Tigers’ top five.