EUGENE — The butterflies that an athlete experiences on the day of competition vary from athlete to athlete. Some need to battle through intense nervousness while others find a comfort zone that works.
"Usually, I pump up my music and try to relax and know it's another race," Philomath High junior Hannah Hernandez said Saturday after placing fifth in the Class 4A girls state cross-country meet. "It's a big race, but it's just another race."
Junior Madison Bushnell, who placed 34th overall and was Philomath's second-fastest runner, said nerves can be an issue.
"Usually when I get to the meet, that's when the nerves start to kick in," Bushnell said. "Once you get here, it's pretty nerve-wracking, especially when there's a race going on when you get here."
Hernandez covered the 5,000-meter course at Lane Community College in 19:07. She came into the state meet with a personal-best time this season of 18:17 and an Oregon West Conference meet title that she won in 18:22.
"It helped a lot racing here last week; we got to know the course," Hernandez said in reference to the OWC meet also being staged at LCC. "I think it was harder this time than districts, for sure, because I saw the top row go out pretty hard and then they had that lead. When you're by yourself in no man's land trying to keep the pace, it's a little harder trying to catch up."
Hernandez, who said her strategy was to just go her pace, maintain and then try to catch up, did overtake a runner that she had been chasing as the athletes approached the LCC track for the final 300 meters. But in the end, her legs gave out and two others overtook her to knock her down to fifth individually.
Fulton said Hernandez was in a difficult position when she was running alone in fourth.
"That's really difficult because she kinda set herself up for the girls from behind — they were keying on her," PHS coach Joe Fulton said. "There were three girls racing together and they could see Hannah up there by herself so she was a perfect target."
Hernandez placed fourth as a freshman but struggled to 28th last year.
"I'm glad I did better than last year, that's a plus," she said. "I can't be sad about that."
Did last year's experience weigh heavily on her mind heading into the race?
"It helped me, actually, thinking 'you can do it, you're strong, you practiced.' It didn't cross my mind at all," she said.
Junior Rivers Nuno was the third PHS runner to come in with a time of 21:21, good for 37th. Bushnell and Nuno usually run close and push each other on the course.
"I just try to stick with her throughout the race and just slowly try to pick off people while I'm running," Bushnell said about her strategy. "I felt pretty good; I felt like I was pushing myself all the way through it."
Added Nuno, "Yeah, if one of us leads, we sort of switch off and then it helps push the other person."
Nuno, who said she was happy with how her season unfolded, was another athlete who said it helped to run districts at LCC.
"Everybody always runs a little slower on the state course, but since we ran it for districts, you sort of knew what to expect," she said.
Philomath High's quest for a top-four trophy fell seven points short. Marist Catholic won the state title in a close competition with Siuslaw and Tillamook. The battle for fourth was also tight with Oregon West champion Sisters getting the final trophy with La Grande and Philomath right behind.
"They were pretty solid. All the girls ran fairly well," Fulton said. "I'm sure a couple of them are thinking they could've placed a little higher but we had four girls in the top 50 and our fifth girl wasn't too far back."
Sophomore Sarah McDaniel was the fourth runner with the top-50 finish by taking 49th in 22:14. Freshman Audrey Gerding finished 54th in 22:46; junior Hannah Bovbjerg was 58th in 22:54; and freshman Jazz Choi finished 79th in 23:55.
Class 4A State Championships
Saturday at Eugene
Team scoring: Marist Catholic 70, Siuslaw 73, Tillamook 77, Sisters 141, La Grande 145, Philomath 148, Henley 174, Phoenix 193, Baker 203, Valley Catholic 220, Estacada 297, Gladstone 302.
Top 10 individuals: 1, Solace Bergeron, Tillamook, 18:32; 2, Anika Thompson, Junction City, 18:40; 3, Sarah Pullen, Tillamook, 18:59; 4, Hannah Rannow, Siuslaw, 19:02; 5, Hannah Hernandez, Philomath, 19:07; 6, Jazmin Chavez, Marshfield, 19:11; 7, Kate Bowen, Sisters, 19:16; 8, Taylor Issac, Valley Catholic, 19:38; 9, Kaitlin Cook, Elmira, 19:49; 10, Lucy Tsai, Marist Catholic, 19:53.
Other PHS Results: 34, Madison Bushnell, 21:03; 37, Rivers Nuno, 21:21; 49, Sarah McDaniel, 22:14; 54, Audrey Gerding, 22:46; 58, Hannah Bovbjerg, 22:54; 79, Jazz Choi, 23:55.