Hood River Valley’s Chloe Bullock and Crook County’s Alec Carne are the individual favorites in Wednesday’s Intermountain Conference district cross country meet at Sorosis Park in The Dalles.
Neither senior runner has lost a race this shortened season, which included mostly weekly dual or three-way meets among league opponents. Bullock was fifth in the 2019 district meet, also at Sorosis, while Carne won the boys race that season. The girls varsity race begins at 3 p.m., followed by the varsity boys and a co-ed junior varsity race.
Bullock and her teammates also are the clear favorites — based on 2021 performances — to win the girls team title. The Eagles’ second through sixth runners have run as a tight pack throughout the spring; their best times are within 31 seconds of each other.
“That girls pack that we have, five girls strong … they are really fun to watch race,” HRV Coach Brandon Bertram said. “To be able to run effectively as a pack is cross country racing.”
Among those in the HRV pack is sophomore Phoebe Wood, HRV’s No. 3 runner, who Bertram said is coming into her own. Wood did exactly what the team discussed as one of its goals for the final IMC dual meet, Bertram said.
“The word this week was to respond; don’t get hung up in the pack, don’t get comfy,” he said of the March 31 home dual with Crook County. “Phoebe Wood has been one of those who has stepped up for our girls. She’s learning how to race.”
HRV has won the past four district girls team championships, with The Dalles finishing second in 2019 and 2018.
“Hood River obviously is going to be the big favorite unless something crazy happens,” The Dalles Coach Bob Thouvenel said.
Thouvenel said the Riverhawks and Crook County should battle for the next two spots behind Hood River if the race goes to form. A hypothetical meet based on 5,000-meter performances this season has The Dalles edging Crook County, 63-64, while Hood River has 30 points.
The Dalles and Crook County each have consistent No. 1 runners – senior Hanna Ziegenhagen for the Riverhawks and Lindsey Mode of the Cowgirls. They are ranked 2-3 behind Bullock. If Crook County has an advantage over The Dalles it is because of the tighter bunching of its second through fifth runners. The Dalles and Crook County raced in a dual March 3, when the Riverhawks won, 26-29.
The Dalles and Hood River are the top two boys teams heading into the district meet. The Riverhawks have a 39-50 advantage on the pre-meet form chart based on best times this season, but HRV won the most recent meeting between the two teams. Sophomore Juan Diego Contreras is expected to run with the lead pack as he did in 2019 when he was second to Carne. Senior Nick Caracciolo and freshman Leo Lemann have been consistent No. 2-3 runners for The Dalles and are ranked among the top 10 in district.
Hood River counters with Elliot Hawley and Thomas Ziegler; Hawley was seventh at district in 2019 while Ziegler transferred to HRV this year from White Salmon’s Columbia High. Bertram said part of his team’s success has been because of the example set by No. 5 runner, senior Joshua Humann.
“He’s an every-day, show-up guy,” the coach said of the former tennis player. “You watch a guy like Joshua and you see how things get done. He’s reaping the benefits of putting in the time here.”
One X-factor for Hood River could be Eagle senior Josh Haynes, who ran half of last week’s dual against Crook County before jogging off the course to go on a road run. If healthy, Haynes, who continues to recover from leg injuries, would be favored to contend for the individual title. Bertram said his talented senior will be ready to run at the district meet. “Josh is going to race at IMC,” he said. “He took (the Crook County race) as a test to see how his legs would respond.”
Thouvenel said Haynes makes HRV the favorite, but if the Eagle senior does not compete, “it could be close between the two of us battling for first and second.”
Bertram pointed out another X-factor in the race: “The Dalles is worth at least five points on their home course. They know where all the oak trees are.”
Hood River and The Dalles have toed the line against each other twice this spring. The Dalles won a March 10 dual at Sorosis, and HRV won a four-way meet March 24 at Redmond that also included Ridgeview. The Dalles tuned up for the district meet with a three-way March 31 at Sorosis. The Riverhawks won both races over Pendleton and Redmond.