By Brad Mosher
In a tight fight for the league crowns, it was Neah-Kah-Nie winning the individual titles, but Nestucca edged ahead of the host Pirates to claim the team gold.
Nestucca won the girls title with 32 points, while Neah-Kah-Nie finished with 34 – only a two-point difference. Vernonia was third with 63 points, while Delphian placed fourth with 81 points.
The Bobcats were almost as close in the boys race, with the team from Cloverdale finishing with the same point total as the girls – 32 – while Neah-Kah-Nie was four points back (36). Faith Bible Christian was third with 82 points in the boys race, followed by Delphian (109), Life Christian and Knappa tying for fifth (118), and Vernonia was seventh with 135 points.
Hadermann gets title
Freshman Karissa Hadermann won the girls crown for Neah-Kah-Nie with a 24:47.01 effort over the hilly and wet 5-kilometer course, which forced Nestucca’s Rachel Whittles to settle for second almost two minutes later (26:32.00).
Hadermann led for most of the race, breaking away from the field in the first mile. Her teammate, freshman Aspen Becker, finished third in the race (26:51.08).
But the difference in the team race was the Lady Cats putting four runners in the top nine scorers.
Jaykayla Jackson came in fifth overall and fourth among scoring runners with a time of 27:08.20, followed by Payton Hopkins (seventh, 28:00.88) and Tea Chatelain (11th, 29:07.63). When the individual runners were removed from the scoring, Hopkins was fifth and Chatelain came in ninth.
Neah-Kah-Nie had an early edge in the scoring race, but Chatelain and Jessica Bailey (14th, 30:04.96) were able to beat out the fourth and fifth runners from Neah-Kah-Nie to claim the narrow win.
After taking two of the top three places in the race, Neah-Kah-Nie’s Lacoya Remy-Hamer was the team’s third finisher, placing eighth overall and sixth among the scoring runners with a time of 28:26.10.
The Pirates’ fourth and fifth runners were Roan Childress (13th overall, 29:40.01) and Montana Ruona (16th overall, 31:27.38). Among the scoring runners, the Pirate pair had the 11th and 13th spots.
The Lady Cats came into the meet as the favorite, according to their coach.
“They just did what they needed to do with strong performances from all six girls. Rachel Whittle coming in second was good. Jaykayla Jackson and Tea Chatelain, Payton Hopkins, Jessica Bailey and Becca Ziegler all performed really well,” Nestucca coach Gordon Whitehead said. It is a tough course. The girls survived the course and won the whole thing.”
Looking ahead, the coach said his girls team is in a good position to shoot for a state qualifying spot at the district meet in two weeks.
“But, Neah-Kah-Nie wasn’t very far behind them today and they are in the District 3 so we are going to have to work hard to beat them again. They have got two very strong runners.”
Still, he thinks his girls have a chance to win the district meet in Salem. That would earn the Lady Cats a trip to Eugene for the state championship meet.
“They would need to improve, but they have been improving. We’ll just have to see what we can come up with,” he said.
For Neah-Kah-Nie coach Brett Duer, the overall meet was a success – both at the team and individual level.
“I was really proud of my team,” he said.
Looking ahead to the district race, Duer said it would be close.
“I think it is going to be between Nestucca and us,” he explained. “We were just points away from them today. Aspen Becker and Karissa Hadermann are one-two and doing a lot for us. But it really comes down to the 3, 4, 5 and they are getting faster. They have not peaked yet. They are the ones who are making the difference for us.”
Bobcats scratch out boys title
In the NWL race, it was Neah-Kah-Nie’s Colby Hixson winning the individual title with a time of 20:51.55, followed by teammate Dylan Mitchell in fourth (22:57.90).
Sophomore Jesse Gard led the Bobcats, placing second with a time of 21:39.72).
According to the Nestucca coach, it was the team’s number-five runner who made the difference for the Bobcats in the boys race.
“I would especially like to compliment our number-five runner, Elias Sifford, because he is a freshman. He has just been improving every week,” the coach said. “This week, he basically was the difference between first and second place. His improvement really did that for us. We had strong performances from everybody else as well.”
Sifford was the 11th runner to finish, beating out Neah-Kah-Nie’s Willie Davidson by less than a second to provide the winning edge for the Bobcats. Davidson was the Pirates’ fifth runner.
With Hixson winning and Dylan Mitchell coming in fourth, the Pirates got off to a good start, but Nestucca put three runners across the line (Joe Wilkinson, Jordan Whittles and Cody Kirkendall) ahead the host’s third finisher, Brady Haylett. That swung the advantage to Nestucca in scoring.
Nestucca had built up a three-point advantage waiting for their fifth runner to finish – that meant Neah-Kah-Nie’s only hope for a team win would be if Davidson could have beaten Sifford and finished several scorers ahead of his rival.