WARRENTON — “Celebrating the sport of cross country,” is how Neil Branson always describes the 3-Course Challenge.
And they do it up big in the annual meet, which took place Saturday at Camp Rilea.
Seaside High School is the host for the event, one of the biggest youth cross country meets on the West Coast.
This year, the meet featured 2,107 runners finishing, with 77 high schools, 22 middle schools and two running clubs showing up.
Branson has retired as the Seaside cross country coach, but the longtime leader of the Gulls is still in charge of the 3-Course Challenge.
Being retired from coaching, Branson said, “it’s easier to put time into this. And of course the volunteers are consistently great, and the people at Camp Rilea amaze me at how hard they work on this thing.”
In addition, “it’s nice to keep my finger in the pie. I love cross country and being around the kids. This is an event that people appreciate, so it’s nice and healthy to make it happen.”
Teams that traveled the farthest distance to compete this year included Cerritos High School from southern California, along with Monta Vista (Calif.) from the Bay Area, and Canadian schools Walnut Grove (from Langley, B.C.) and West Point Grey (Vancouver, B.C.).
As always, the local schools had some success, both individually and as teams.
The Astoria girls’ team was the top Division 3 team, with all of their finishes combined.
Astoria senior McKenzie Burnett finished eighth out of 236 finishers in the Easy race; and Ilwaco’s Eliza Bannister was 11th to help her team place fifth in the team standings.
Astoria freshman Sophie Long was 12th out of 238 runners on the Hard course.
At the middle school level, Astoria eighth-grader Lindsay Riutta was seventh out of 113 runners in the 3,000-meter middle school race; and Warrenton eighth-grader Gabe Boisvert was 13th out of 123 runners in the boys’ middle school event.
There was also two smaller 3,000-meter challenge races (with 10 to 15 runners each), both of which were won by Seaside athletes (Jacie Gregory, girls; Rain Cannon, boys).