Hood River Valley and The Dalles will square off Wednesday in a throwback, cross-country dual meet at Sorosis Park.

High school dual cross country meets have been the exception rather than the rule in rural areas for more than 20 years, in part because of travel costs and time. Many of the larger, metro-area schools, which are closer in proximity, still hold duals, and/or double duals (three teams).

This week’s dual is a part of the Intermountain Conference’s revamped schedule designed to comply with COVID restrictions on crowd sizes. The conference schools are scheduled to race head-to-head against each other over a five-week period and then compete in a season-ending district meet April 7.

That schedule took its first hit last week, when the HRV and Pendleton dual was cancelled because at least one Pendleton runner did not meet COVID safety protocols. The Dalles did get in its meet last week; the Riverhawks swept Crook County in Prineville where the girls won 26-29 and the boys 23-38.

The Dalles Coach Bob Thouvenel said he’s looking forward to this week’s race, not for nostalgic reasons, but because, “we simple can have meets (period).” Thouvenel said dual meets are tough on some runners, because the field is smaller and “if you’re not running with someone else, you can get caught by yourself,” and that’s a tough way to race. “That’s the only drawback I see,” he said. In a meet of 10 teams, “There is always somebody who is ahead of you that you can (work to) pick off.”

The spacing of the girls meet last week in Prineville is an example of that situation, as there were 20- to 40-second gaps – and more - between many of the places affecting scoring (first seven runners for each team).

Despite that, the Riverhawk girls had three of the top four runners, led by individual winner Hanna Ziegenhagen who covered the 5,000-meter course in 21 minutes, 4 seconds. Emily Johnson and Catie Wring were third and fourth for The Dalles.

Crook County’s Alec Carne, the 2019 district medalist, pulled away from The Dalles sophomore Juan Diego Contreras in the last third of the boys race and won in 16:09. Diego Contreras was second in 16:31. Teammate Nick Caracciolo was third and freshman Leo Lemann fifth, leading a pack of the next six Riverhawk finishers. Thouvenel said Lemann was a pleasant surprise, explaining that with hard work, the young runner is, “making himself into a talented one.”

Thouvenel said this week’s competition will be different – a step up from Crook County. He said the Eagles “are a pretty solid group. I’d say they’re probably the best team in the district,” based on the runners who returned to the team. “We (the IMC teams) all seem to have two or three runners who didn’t come back out,” for various reason, Thouvenel said.

Wednesday’s meet starts at 3 p.m.

Meantime, across the river in White Salmon, a young Columbia High team hosted a three-school meet Saturday. The Bruins boys won with 34 points, led by the 3-4 finish of Camden Uffelman and August Lorincz in the three-mile race. Goldendale was second and King’s Way third. Columbia’s Ella Zimmerman and Rian Pedersen finished 1-2 in the girls race, won by the sophomore Zimmerman in 21 minutes, 33 seconds. None of the three schools fielded complete girls teams for scoring purposes.

Columbia hosts the Trico Conference high school and middle school championships, starting Saturday morning.