A large turnout of runners and a successful summer of training runs have Coach Mike Hannigan excited - and optimistic - about this cross country season at Columbia High School.

Hannigan said the 30-member team includes a core group which prepared for the season the past few months by consistently showing up for summer workouts. That dedication should bolster the Bruins’ chances of an upper echelon finish at the conference and district meets later this fall.

“We had a great time training this summer,” he said. “From the end of the school year until the season.” A highlight each week was the rotating Thursday night runs at different trails in the Gorge, such as Dog Mountain and Syncline, he said.

Hannigan is especially excited about a smaller but talented group of girls runners, led by junior Ella Zimmerman. She was Columbia’s top girls finisher in tenth place in 21 minutes, 47 seconds at the 5,000-meter spring district meet race. The Bruins did not field a complete girls team, but they have enough runners to do so this season.

“We have seven, maybe eight, so we’ve got a complete team” of at least five scoring runners, Hannigan said. “I’m just so proud of them.”

A district title may be too much to ask for Columbia, mostly because Seton Catholic returns six of seven runners from its dominant district title team this past COVID-forced spring season. Seton Catholic won the District IV race with the top four finishers and six of the top seven.

Hannigan said his runners feed off the talent of Seton. “They just sort of inspire our girls to be better,” he said.

Joining Zimmerman in the varsity lineup is sophomore Rian Pederson (13th district) and sophomore Esther Cline (15th district). Those three made up the Bruins’ spring team.

The Columbia high boys are led by junior Camden Uffelman, the top Bruin runner at district this past spring in 12th place. Hannigan said co-captain Dominic Davidson, the team’s lone senior, and sophomore Henry Wilson also are expected to have successful season based on their off-season progress.

Columbia will open the season with a home meet Sept. 9. Hannigan said a highlight will be the Bruins’ annual overnight trek to the Three Course Challenge in Seaside on Sept. 25.

Bruin cross country notes: The Columbia home course is a spectator friendly course of two loops, most of which are visible with minimal effort near the start and finish line at the high school.