Six local cross country runners competed in the USA Track and Field Oregon State Junior Olympic Championships Saturday at Western Oregon University in Monmouth.
Hermiston runners Hayden Scott, Angel Castellanos, Donnell Rome and Hayden Earl were joined by Umatillas Fabian Cardenas and Pendletons Nolan Bylenga to form the Bowerman Athletic Club team.
The team competed in the 15/16-year-old division this past weekend.
The event was a typical 5-kilometer cross country race, with the Bowerman team besting the field to finish first.
Hermistons Scott finished first in the meet with a time of 16 minutes and 37 seconds.
Scott is no stranger to the club running scene as he has competed with the Bowerman Athletic Club team since he was 12 years old.
Club running has been a great experience for me, Scott said. Its been fun to get to compete with some local runners instead of against them, like we do during the high school cross country and track seasons.
Umatillas Cardenas finished with a time of 16:45, and Pendletons Bylenga ran a competitive 16:49. Hermiston runners Castellanos, Earl and Rome finished with times of 17:29, 18:03 and 18:04 respectfully.
Scott said the runners had to battle some windy conditions on race day.
When we got there, the weather was perfect, he said. Just before the race started, the wind really picked up. I think it threw everyone off for a bit before we could adjust. Thats part of cross country, and everyone has to compete with the same elements.
The teams win qualified the it for this Saturdays regional meet, also at Western Oregon University. The Bowerman team will compete against some of the top clubs from the Pacific Northwest. The top three teams from the regional meet will get to compete in the national meet in San Antonio, Texas in two weeks. The top five individuals from the regional meet will also qualify for nationals.
Thats our goal, Scott said. Wed love the opportunity to get to compete at nationals.
Scott said he thinks the team has a fair chance.
If everyone runs the race they are capable of, I think well be able to qualify, he said. Weve been putting in a lot of hard work at practice these past couple of weeks to get us prepared for this.
Hermiston Bulldogs cross country coach Jacob Puzey isnt directly involved in the Bowerman team because of Oregon School Activities Association policy, but he is helping the team prepare and train.
This is really the first time weve had our runners do something like this, he said. After the high school season finished, our younger runners told me they wanted to continue to compete. This gives them, as well as some other local runners, a chance to do that.
Puzey said club running is simply an extension of the high school season.
Its really just way to continue running competitively, he said. Its nice to still have that competitive atmosphere. I think people run better when they are being pushed or have someone else to compete against. It definitely beats running the same trails at home every day.
Puzey said running at the national meet would be a tremendous opportunity for his runners, on and off the track.
Seeing another part of the country would be a great treat for the guys, he said. Youth sports has the ability to open up kids to a variety of cultures and people. Getting to run in San Antonio and getting to meet competitors from around the country would be special for everyone involved.
To get to nationals, the Bowerman team members will have to improve on their times from last week. Scott said hes already improved his running times since the high school season ended.
Just continuing to train in a structured setting has been great, he said. Usually we can get Fabian and Nolan to come to Hermiston, so we can all train together. Its been a great experience so far.
Scott said the competition this weekend at the regional meet will be tough.
There are going to be a lot of great teams competing this week, he said. Well have to run a little bit better than we did last week if we want to make it to nationals.
Puzey agreed with Scotts assessment of the talent at the upcoming regional meet.
Washington will definitely have at least one good squad, probably two, he said. It will be a fun challenge for these local guys.
Puzey said he likes his Hermiston runners to train through the fall before taking a short break during the winter before track season begins. He said these events are helping accomplish that.
It works out perfectly, he said. Theyll get a rest during Christmas break, and then theyll be right back at it for track season.
Puzey said he is impressed with the initiative his young Bulldog runners have shown.
As a coach, its always nice to have runners who are willing to put in the extra time and work, he said. Our young guys are hungry for more success, and they are willing to do what it takes to put themselves in good positions to have that success.
Puzey said his Hermiston runners are continuing to gain confidence even after the high school state meet.
Thats what this is really all about, he said. Training and racing is as much about your level of confidence as it is your physical skills. These club meets are showing our guys they can run with some of the best runners of the state in their age group. This is experience will be extremely valuable for our high school track season, next years cross country season and beyond.