Hannah Hernandez might not be the favorite but she’s ready to take her shot at the state’s best.
The Philomath High sophomore is expected to be part of four runners out front Saturday competing for the 4A girls individual title at the OSAA cross-country state meet at Lane Community College in Eugene.
Every 5,000-meter (3.1-mile) course is different, but Hernandez has the 4A classification’s third-fastest time this fall at 18 minutes, 42.3 seconds.
That trails Tillamook’s Solace Bergeron (18:41.6) and Crook County’s Jan Carne (18:42.1) and is just ahead of Scappoose’s Linnaea Kavulich (18:44.2).
“I feel like it could be anybody’s race, to be honest. There’s four of us who are super close together,” said Hernandez, whose team will chase a trophy with a top-four finish. “I think that if I just do my pace and I do what I’ve been training to do, that the outcome will be good and I should be happy with whatever happens.”
Hernandez ran her personal and season best in pulling away from Kavulich to win Philomath’s Paul Mariman Invitational by 17 seconds four weeks ago. It was Hernandez’s third of three straight times under 19 minutes.
A week later, Bergeron finished second at the Heiser Farms meet near Dayton, 27 seconds better than fifth-place Hernandez.
Bergeron and Kavulich ran their season bests at last week’s Cowapa League district meet.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if she did (win), but there are three other girls that could win it as well,” Warriors coach Joe Fulton said. “It’s going to be whoever is feeling the best that day and being most aggressive, willing to take some chances in the middle of the race.”
The state course, which is relatively flat but includes a few short and steep hills, finishes with roughly 300 meters on the track. If Hernandez is to win it, she and Fulton believe she’ll need to take the lead much before that.
“My kick is not the best kick,” Hernandez said. “Where I start to go and leave people is toward the second mile. That’s where I go and start picking up the pace.”
Hernandez was fourth last year and her team third.
Philomath won last week’s Oregon West Conference district meet behind Hernandez’s win by more than 14 seconds at Cascade High in Turner.
Based on season’s best times, the Warriors are projected for sixth behind Tillamook, Scappoose, Siuslaw, Sisters and La Grande.
Fulton considers Tillamook the heavy favorite. He also has his eyes on La Grande, the 2016 runner-up.
“I underestimated them last year —I’m not going to do it again,” Fulton said.
The coach sees Scappoose also competing for second with Siuslaw, Sisters and Philomath running for fourth.
Philomath senior Jensen Davis qualified for the boys race with fifth at the district meet. The Warriors tied for second and missed out on a state berth via a tiebreaker.
The meet opens with the 3A/2A/1A girls at 10 a.m., followed by the 3A/2A/1A boys and the 4A, 5A and 6A races.
The Crescent Valley girls were hoping to keep Summit from a 10th-straight team title, but the Raiders will have to do it not at full strength.
They’ll be without Sophie Fisher, their No. 4 runner at last week’s Mid-Willamette Conference district meet, which CV won as expected in dominating fashion.
Fisher, a sophomore who had a strong second half of the season, suffered a badly sprained an ankle and won’t compete, coach Tyler Bushnell said.
The Raiders will look for a runner to step up. Freshman Emma Hollon and senior McKenna Henke finished as the team’s fifth and sixth runners at the district meet.
CV placed second last year and has done so twice in Summit’s nine-year run, in addition to a runner-up finish in 2007.
With Fisher, the Raiders are seeded second and 50 points clear of third-place Hood River Valley based on season’s best times. They lose 39 seconds when replacing Fisher in their top five for scoring purposes, again on best times. That margin was nearly 62 seconds at the district meet.
Corvallis qualified as well, behind Zoey Bailey’s seventh-place district finish.
In the boys race, Crescent Valley’s Drew Roberts and AJ Sandvig look to place high. Their 1-2 district finish led the Raiders to the team title.
Roberts, a freshman, and Sandvig, a senior, have fed off each other this fall as training partners.
“Drew and I both expect to be deep in the top 10,” Sandvig said after the district meet. “We’re running how we want to. We’re pretty consistent runners, so I don’t see why we can’t pull out top 10.”
CV is a long shot for a team trophy, seeded eighth.
Corvallis, led by Ian Vickstrom (seventh) and Parker Hamel (eighth) at the district meet, also qualified. Vickstrom was slowed by a head cold last week and hoped to have a better showing at state.
Santiam Christian has entries in both races.
The Eagles’ boys team qualified behind Paul Lim’s 10-place district finish. Ainsley Beam and Ann Livingston will run in the girls race after taking fourth and fifth, respectively.