Baker hosts GOL XC district meet
Boys want a state berth
By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
Baker's boys cross country team is hoping to do something it has never done before: advance to the Class 3A state meet next month in Eugene.
Baker has sent individual runners to the state boys meet, but has never advanced as a team. Saturday, at the Greater Oregon League district meet on their home course at Quail Ridge Golf Course, the Bulldogs hope to change that.
"I hope I'm fast enough, and the other runners on my team are fast enough that we can all go to state," said Sam Baxter, the team's lone returning senior.
"This is just like any other meet to me," he said. "It's more fun running at home. If you do bad, you do bad. If you do good more people see it. Plus we don't have to travel and get all tired."
Baker coach Suzy Cole said Burns is "the dominating favorite" to win the team title. But the Bulldogs are right in the mix for the other state berth.
"About 10 points separate us, Ontario and La Grande," Cole said.
"All of the teams are very young this year. It makes for an interesting district because you have no idea how the runners did in the past. It makes it fun and interesting."
The top two teams and top seven individual runners advance to the state meet.
Cole said the young Bulldogs are still learning.
"They're all learning so much. We have just started discussing the technical parts of the race," she said.
One of Cole's regular runners, Zach Baxter, is a question mark for Saturday. Baxter has been running with an injured leg, and may not be able to go.
"Zach is still questionable. We'll try him Saturday morning and see how he feels," Cole said.
If Baxter can't go, freshman Ritchie Maynard will step in.
Jon Henry has stepped forward as the Bulldogs' top runner in recent meets.
"He is really coming on," Cole said. "He's more confident all the time."
Peter Vergari, Tony Randall and Sam Baxter are the veterans in the young group.
"They have enough experience, but it's crucial that they step up and help us," Cole said.
First-year runner and senior Mark Owen, and freshman Nick Magill also are in the mix.
"We feel good about their mental outlook for this meet," Cole said.
The Baker coach said having another home meet as recently as a week ago the Baker Invitational also should help the younger runners.
"It's really up to their mental outlook," she said. "It comes to putting the whole package together mentally, physically, tactically," Cole said.
Randall and Vergari offered their thoughts on how the Bulldogs can qualify for the state meet.
"We need to stay mentally tough because we have a young team," Randall said. "We tend not to be as mentally tough as we can sometimes. We just need to stay tough and know we can beat the other teams.
"We just need to stay together. We have to pack it up," he said.
"Burns is ahead of us, but we can beat them," Vergari added.
And, running at home adds incentive.
"There are a lot of people we don't want to let down," Randall said.
Individually, Cole sees Ontario's Riley Frisby, the winner at the Baker Invitational, and Burns' Tommy Hooper as the front-runners at the district meet.
Frisby placed 34th at state last year.
The boys race will begin at 1:45 p.m.
Girls seek sixth-straight title
By GERRY STEELE
Of the Baker City Herald
Baker's girls cross country team will be gunning for its sixth straight Greater Oregon League championship Saturday at Quail Ridge Golf Course.
The Bulldogs, who also will be after their sixth straight trip to the Class 3A state meet in Eugene, will receive a severe challenge from La Grande.
"Mathematically, La Grande is the hands-down favorite," said Baker coach Suzy Cole. "For us to get them we are hoping Burns and Ontario runners will help us break up their top runners."
Cole said the Bulldogs got a good taste of what they should expect Saturday last week at the Baker Invitational on the same course. La Grande won that race, edging Baker 25-33.
"We ran some good times last week," Cole said. "But, with district it's not really about the times. It's more about the placings."
The top two teams and the top seven individuals advance to the state meet.
Cole said the Bulldogs have been running well. And she is hoping that Linea Bruno, injured in a bicycle-automobile accident recently, will be able to return Saturday.
"Linea is questionable, but she has started running again," the Baker coach said.
"I have eight runners who have run tough all season, so I haven't decided which seven I'll go with Saturday.
"Our girls have been focused all year long. We just need to make sure we don't hurt ourselves," Cole said.
Senior Katelyn Anderson has been Baker's top individual runner in recent meets. She is joined by Kirsten Brookshire, Bruno, Sara Jury and Alexa Servid who are on their third district team, Megan Brookshire and Sarah Servid in their second district competition, and freshman standout Trina Bruno.
"It's going to come back to who's ready to compete," Cole said. "The weather should be no factor.
"We have a pretty veteran group. Trina, a freshman, is running well, and all the others have been through this before. They're ready to go out and compete."
Kirsten Brookshire said she likes the Bulldogs' chances of returning to Eugene.
"We know we have a good chance to get to state," she said. "There's not a lot of teams besides us and La Grande.
"Suzy still wants to have us peak at state. I think we'll all have PRs (personal bests) at district. But we should have even bigger PRs at state."
Brookshire said running district in front of the home fans adds a little more pressure.
"It kind of adds more, and we would really like to beat La Grande. Our Baker course is one of the toughest we run on," said Brookshire, whose personal goal is to finish in the top seven.
Alexa Servid said Baker's chances of overtaking La Grande will depend on how well the Bulldogs pack their runners.
"We should be able to get up with La Grande. The times for our whole team are above their fifth and sixth runners," she said.
Anderson agreed that packing together, as they have all season, will be a key.
"We will need to move the pack up," she said.
Anderson said her biggest challenge will come from La Grande's Kirsten Johnson, the Tigers' second-place runner. Johnson placed eighth at last year's state meet.
Both Anderson and Johnson will likely trail La Grande's top runner, Hayley Oveson. Oveson, one of the top runners in the state, set a new course record by 56 seconds at the Baker Invitational. She transferred to La Grande from Wallowa this season.
"I got a lot closer to Kirsten at the last meet than I had been," Anderson said. "I would need a humongous PR to beat her. I'll try.
"Running in front of the home fans gives you that added adrenaline rush," Anderson said. "It helps a lot. It gives you that extra surge."
Anderson placed third behind Oveson and Johnson at the Baker Invitational.
The girls race begins at 1 p.m.