Summit's girls team, ranked No. 3 in 5A, expects a stern challenge from Crescent Valley and Crater in the state championships.
Summit's girls team, ranked No. 3 in 5A, expects a stern challenge from Crescent Valley and Crater in the state championships.

The last time Summit's girls cross country team didn't win a state championship, way back in 2007, many of the members of this year's squad hadn't been born.

And for the Storm to keep alive one of the great championship runs in Oregon high school sports history, it will be counting on contributions from them.

After graduating four top-10 finishers from last year's 5A meet, Summit had to quickly rebuild to have a chance at extending its title streak. In a testament to the program's depth, the Storm is in position to contend again with a team composed mostly of sophomores and freshmen.

“I've been incredibly proud of this group of girls,” coach Kari Strang said. “There is a lot of pressure on the backs of these young girls, and they have risen to the challenge.”

Summit was ranked No. 3 in the OSAAtoday midseason 5A coaches poll, behind No. 1 Crescent Valley and No. 2 Crater. Those teams appear ready to mix it up for the top spot in the 5A championship meet Nov. 4 at Lane Community College.

“It's going to be an absolute fight out there,” Strang said. “All these teams are strong. It's going to be a lot of fun to see how it shakes out. … With any great run, at some point it's going to end. We're going to do everything we can to not have it be this year. We absolutely care. We definitely want it.”

Summit got its only look at Crescent Valley in the Rose City Invitational on Oct. 13. The Storm finished fifth with 179 points and the Raiders, who weren't at full strength, landed seventh with 212 points.

“We competed really well that day,” Strang said. “They started running more from a place of confidence, which was awesome to see.”

Summit has not gone head-to-head with Crater. The Storm has finished ahead of No. 5 Caldera, its district rival, in all four invitationals the teams entered this season.

Strang knows that the top teams are hungry to take down Summit.

“It's a lot of pressure to be going for Year 15,” Strang said. “Even though we don't make that a focus of our season, they feel it. We address it because you can't pretend it isn't real. But I think that's something that absolutely weighs on them at times, so we try to acknowledge it and see it as something that's part of our legacy.”

Summit is led by sophomores Eva Dicharry and Skye Knox, who have the No. 7 and No. 9 times in 5A this season, respectively. Among the other key runners for the Storm are sophomore Taylin Brown (No. 21), freshman Elizabeth Connolly (No. 26) and sophomore Kersie Knoll (No. 31).

If Summit can get top-five performances from Dicharry and Knox at state, it would go a long way toward another title.

“They absolutely have a shot at it,” Strang said. “I would always put my money on our team.”

The Storm is lacking state-championship meet experience, however. Knox and Bowen are the only two runners on the team to race a state last year, finishing 15th and 25th, respectively.

The team has leaned heavily on its winning culture. It has helped keep the competition in perspective for the young runners, who are showing “grace under pressure,” according to Strang.

“This year we've done more team dinners, more team activities, just trying to make sure that the focus is on loving the sport and not have it be on any one championship,” Strang said.

Summit's postseason begins Tuesday with the Intermountain Conference district meet at Juniper Golf Course in Redmond. The Storm expects to be pushed by Caldera.

“They give us a run for our money every time,” Strang said. “We don't take it for granted at all. We're going to have to definitely work for it.”

Villagomez leads 4A

La Grande junior Cecilia Villagomez recoreded the best 4A girls time in the state this season in winning the Kyle Burnside Memorial Invite on Wednesday at Birch Creek Golf Course in Pendleton.

Villagomez finished in 18:36.6 to improve on her previous best of 19:13.8, set last year when she finished runner-up in the 4A championships.

La Grande took the top four spots in Wednesday's meet. Sophomore Brook Perry (18:44.5) was second, followed by seniors Emily Tubbs and Kiah Carlson.

Umpqua Invite

Klamath Union's girls and Roseburg's boys won titles at the Umpqua Invite on Wednesday at Stewart Park in Roseburg.

The Pelicans, led by a fourth-place finish from senior Isabela Coffman, scored 133 points to beat Grants Pass (136) and Oregon City (138) in the 19-team girls meet.

North Eugene senior Artana Nice took the girls meet in 18:21.0, far ahead of the runner-up, Oregon City senior Lydia Dale (19:15.9). Nice's time in No. 8 in 5A this season.

The Indians got a third-place finish from Timothy Johnson to win the 24-team boys meet, scoring 112 points to edge Crater (114) and Sheldon (120). Sheldon held down the top two spots in the boys race with sophomore Malachi Schoenherr (15:26.2) and senior Adam Reeder (15:36.6).