Five Dawgs to run at ‘Clash

Here’s a map of the 4,400-meter course at the Nike BorderClash. The starting chutes for each team are marked, beginning the race with the competitors literally running at each other, until they turn down the marked trail. With the wet weather on the way for the area, the first and second big turns can be pretty challenging to the runners and trying to stay on their feet.

At Nike BorderClash 12, held Sunday on the Nike World Campus in Beaverton, five Hermiston runners will compete for an Oregon team looking for redemption.

Four of the five Bulldogs will run for the Oregon boys’ team — Andrew Valdez, Juan Delgado, Eduardo Juarez and Javier Velasco — that is undoubtedly miffed by Washington’s perfect score last year.

But, then again, it is a race to showcase the individual talents of the runners, who in Class 5A had to finish in the top-12 at the state meet Nov. 6 in Eugene.

The lone Hermiston girl to qualify for the Oregon team was freshman Katie Markwick. Last year, Washington nearly perfect-scored that meet, too. Thankfully for Oregon, they had, and still have, Jesuit’s Annamarie Maag. She finished second overall last year, and won this year’s Class 6A state title.

As for Hermiston runners, head coach Jake Puzey said this is the most Hermiston as ever qualified for the all-star event.

“We’ve qualified three combined before,” Puzey said. “We made it one of the goals to qualify for the meet.”

And while all the runners are first-time qualifiers for BorderClash, it’s not the first time the team has run on the 4,400-meter course across the sprawling campus in the Portland suburb.

Puzey said the team always takes a preseason trip to run at Hayward Field, the state meet course at Lane Community College and the BorderClash course.

“We kind of check out all the postseason places before hand,” Puzey said. “We learn about the tradition of Oregon running. This meet was on their radar.”

The top 40 runners, both boys and girls, from Oregon and Washington are invited to the race — and are treated like royalty. The organizers cater a dinner and huge banquet the night before the race, give the runners custom uniforms, world-class runners come in and talk and share advice and perhaps the most fun, a dance competition.

Last year, Hermiston’s Angelica Rodriguez was the only Bulldog to qualify for the meet. She finished 31st overall with a time of 17 minutes, 43.44 seconds.

While the runners want to do the best they can, since college coaches will be watching the race, Puzey said the event itself does a very good job in keeping the mood light and focuses on creating an environment where the runners can get to know one another.

“They can get to know some of the better runners in the state, so they can be friendly rivals with them,” Puzey said.

The race is a pretty big deal to the folks at Nike, and they really put on a show. The race begins with a loud cannon shot, followed by fireworks. The teams start on opposite ends and run toward each other, before turning down a bottleneck. This is dubbed the “Braveheart” start, after the movie.

The race is also filmed from a helicopter, which is then relayed back to big-screen monitors so the spectators can take in the action from bleachers.

The race begins at 10 a.m. Sunday at the Nike World Campus, One Bowerman Drive, in Beaverton.

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