By Gerry Steele
MILTON-FREEWATER - Baker's boys cross country team ran away from the field Saturday, claiming the Greater Oregon League championship and a berth at the Class 4A state meet in the process.
The Bulldogs finished with 56 points, 13 better than second-place Crook County.
The Baker girls placed fourth in their half of the meet.
"The boys and girls teams both ran spectacular races; everyone ran season bests on a really tough course," said Baker coach Mike Knutson.
"On average, each Bulldog ran over 40 seconds faster than they did on the same course two weeks earlier which demonstrates they are peaking at the right time and really stepped up for the championship race."
Evan Krohn placed second individually with a time of 16:54. Ian Krohn was fourth with a 17:03.6 clocking.
Taylor Hawes (17:44) was 12th, Nate Baeth (18:28.1) was 17th, Cody Gyllenberg (18:54.8) was 21st, Ben Spaugh (19:14.5) was 28th, and Franklin Bowers (19:35.5) was 31st.
"The boys dominated their race - winning by 13 in a race with such small field size is like winning a football game by three or four touchdowns," Knutson said.
"It's hard to single out any single performance because they each ran with their pants on fire. Nate Baeth really bounced back from an injury that's been nagging him for weeks. Taylor Hawes had a specific task to accomplish and did exactly what we asked of him. Cody Gyllenberg has been our de facto leader all season and showed why in this race by running a big PR on this course. I've run out of good things to say about Ian and Evan; they are so confident and consistently good, a one-two punch coach's dream of. "
Matea Huggins was Baker's top girls finisher, placing eighth with a time of 22:31.5.
Sarah Spaugh (22:47.5) was ninth, Anna Payton (23:12.8) 13th, Grace Huggins (23:57.9) 17th, and Josie Stearns (25:20.8) 26th.
"The girls are disappointed to have missed a state berth by so little - if any two of them would have passed one more girl they'd be going to Eugene next weekend," Knutson said.
"I'm extremely proud of their efforts Saturday and throughout the year. Having the Huggins girls, Grace and Matea, join the team really changed our team dynamic, adding a competitive grit that spread to the other girls. We'll miss Sarah Spaugh next year, she's always been a tough competitor for us. Thankfully, we have a great nucleus returning and I really believe with one or two additions, they can be district champs next year and place well at state."
The Baker boys now compete Saturday at the Class 4A state meet at Lane Community College at Eugene.
The boys race begins at 11:50 a.m.
Gates open at 8 a.m. Spectator admission is $8 adults and $5 students.