Several local runners turned in top-10 times at Saturday’s annual Runners Soul XC Fest, but there was no outrunning West Valley Yakima’s Brayden Packard, who finished nearly 40 seconds ahead of the rest of the varsity boys.
“It’s exciting,” Hermiston head coach Troy Blackburn said. “But of course, there’s always things to work on. Coming here is tradition. I ran here when I was in high school. We love having our home meets and letting parents come watch their kids run.”
Packard’s first-place win, which he earned with a time of 16 minutes, 7.64 seconds, came among a morning of races that included boys and girls varsity, junior varsity, and a community race.
More than 500 runners competed in the event, which welcomed student athletes from 21 high schools and 12 middle schools.
The 5K course began at Sandstone Middle School and expanded outward toward the Field of Dreams before runners crossed the finish line behind the school.
Anderson separated from the rest of the pack by the middle school’s tennis courts and would not be touched for the remainder of the course. Enterprise’s Henry Coughlan took second at 16:44.20.
Stanfield junior Sisay Hurty claimed seventh at 17:23.65 in the boys varsity race, barely escaping West Valley’s Anthony Carlascio, who crossed the finish line at 17:24.88.
“I think I could have done better,” Hurty said moments after the race, “but this race gets us all into shape. It’s our first meet of the year. It challenges us.”
Hermiston’s Greg Anderson cracked the top 10 with his ninth-place finish at 17:28.40. He was the only Bulldog in the boys varsity competition to earn a medal.
“Greg put in 500 miles this summer,” Blackburn said. “He showed that he’s up there with some of the top athletes in District 8.”
The Hermiston boys placed fifth in the team standings with 143 points. Pasco took fourth with 130, Union placed third with 98, Enterprise’s 90 points earned them second, and West Valley claimed the top spot with 47 points.
Kennewick swept the top two girls varsity spots thanks to Geraldin Correa (19:42.54) and Macy Marquardt (20:49.50), but Hermiston junior Amanda Nygard was right behind them to take third at 21:00.07.
“There’s no one tougher,” Blackburn said of Nygard. “She’s a hard worker and a great racer. She’s just phenomenal.”
Teammate Cydney Sanchez, who placed seventh at 21:08.44, could be seen running alongside Nygard for the last leg of the race, which gave Nygard the motivation she needed to finish strong.
“I was usually running alone (on the course) during my freshman year,” Nygard said. “This time, Cyd was right next to me. I love that feeling. It got me excited.”
Nygard and Sanchez’s top-10 times helped the Bulldogs to a second-place finish in the team standings with 74 points, beating out Enterprise (86), West Valley (89), and Union (108). Kennewick won first with 37 team points.
“I’m a competitor,” Nygard said. “If there’s anyone out there running faster than I am, I’m going to push myself.”