PORTLAND -- It was a veteran move that got Summit senior Fiona Max the space she needed to gain an advantage on Lincoln freshman Kate Peters on Saturday at Lents Park.
With Peters in her slipstream for most of the 5,000-meter race, Max stayed patient and then attacked the final hill on the muddy course to pull away and win the Girls Varsity Gold race at the Warner Pacific XC Classic. Max finished in 17:16.2 and Peters was timed in 17:24.7.
"No one does more hills," Summit coach Jim McLatchie said.
That extra strength made the difference as the top two girls in the state raced one another for the first time. Max, who leads the top-ranked team in the country, is No. 14 nationally among individuals. Peters, after running 16:58.7 at the Hole In The Wall Invitational in Washington last week, moved up to No. 23.
Max turned to greet Peters after crossing the finish line and told the ninth grader she was proud of her.
"Kate is going to do amazing things and she's an amazing athlete," Max said. "After Hole In The Wall, I was kinda hoping she was wanting to push for sub-17 because we both knew this was a fast course and I was kind of looking for that, too.
"Today was not the day. We found out the mud really slows you down."
Peters was all smiles after the race.
"She's really nice," Peters said. "It's fun racing against her."
Summit's Teaghan Knox placed third in 17:45.5 and Grant's Annelies Quinton was fourth in 17:58.6. Kaiya Robertson of Franklin and Samantha Prusse of Wilsonville were fifth and the sixth, respectively.
The Storm put all seven of its runners across the finish line in the top 16 and scored 36 points. Lincoln was second with 90.
The Warner Pacific meet is one of the last big invitationals on the calendar as teams begin to prepare for district championships.
On the boys side, even at this late stage, not everyone is willing to show all of their cards.
Ashland had marked the date on its calendar as the moment when it would finally reveal the top-five capability of its squad. But that didn't happen.
E.J. Holland, the top runner in the state and one of the fastest in the nation, opted out of racing on Saturday although his teammates seemed somewhat surprised by his absence and said he is running great.
Arlo Davis and Reed Pryor finished fourth and fifth, respectively, in the Gold Division race.
"E.J. is someone who sticks to his schedule," Pryor said.
Holland has raced twice so far but has largely kept a low profile as he trains to try and contend for a national title.
Elsewhere, Jesuit, the top-ranked team in the state came to watch the action Saturday but did not race its top boys against Franklin, the other leading contender for the 6A title.
Aidan Palmer and Charlie Robertson showed that they are a dynamic 1-2 as the placed first and second. Palmer ran 15:03.4 and Robertson was next at 15:04.6.
"We definitely showed that we're here to compete and there's a lot more that we can do, especially when we start tapering, we're going to go do some really good things," Robertson said.
Parkrose senior Ahmed Ibrahim was third in 15:11.1. After the Ashland duo, Vincent Mestler of Sheldon finished sixth.
Franklin scored 77 points to secure the team win. Sherwood edged South Eugene for second on a sixth-runner tiebreaker after both teams scored 134 points.
Doug Binder is the editor of DyeStat.com