By the end of the girls varsity race Saturday at the Columbia River Conference cross country championships, it was clear Pendleton won the team title.
But for Hermiston and Hood River Valley, the final slot for team state qualification was a mystery.
When the results were posted and points tallied, the Hermiston girls screamed with joy and finished four points ahead of the Eagles, earning the final team berth.
Coach Jake Puzey said before the meet that the girls team race would be a tight one. He was proven to be correct.
Bulldog freshman Katie Markwick, who had the fastest time in the CRC coming into the meet, finished second overall with a time of 19 minutes, 12.33 seconds. She was positive and upbeat about how she ran, despite placing behind meet champion Grace Viuhkola of Hood River Valley, who ran a 19:09.21.
There wasnt a time I didnt think I could hang with her, she said. I just couldnt find a kick. I finished hard, though.
Led by Markwicks runner-up finish, Hermiston had to have strong finishes from the rest of the pack which they did.
Junior Jordyn Rohrman held off a late charge by Hood Rivers Lydia Gildehaus to place fifth with a 20:04.65. Gildehaus sixth-place finish, along with Viuhkolas effort, left the two schools tied with seven points after two finished runners from each team.
The Bulldogs received a clutch performance from a runner just running her second race of the season.
Sophomore Maggie Coleman, who also plays on the varsity soccer team, turned in the time that broke the deadlock in the standings with a seventh-place 20:06.68. While Gildehaus out-kicked her at the end of the race, the run was still the key to Hermiston qualifying for state. HRVs Claire Merriam finished in eighth with a 20:09.40., giving Hermiston a point advantage.
Freshman Kelli Niederwerfer also came through with a big run, placing 12th with a 20:57.00, two spots ahead of HRVs Alia Burk. Hermistons fifth and final scoring runner, senior Marissa Worstell, sealed the second-place spot for her team, placing 15th with a 21:28.02.
Viuhkola was the only individual qualifier from the Columbia River Conference with her win, and both Pendleton and Hermiston will send entire squads to the Class 5A championship meet, held Saturday at Lane Community College in Eugene.