WARRENTON - After a three-year absence, the Knappa Loggers made a triumphant return to the Three-Course Challenge, held Saturday afternoon at Rilea Armed Forces Training Center.

The annual meet hosted by Seaside High School drew its usual 1,400-plus runners and 70 schools from all over the Northwest, and welcomed the Loggers back for the first time since 1998. And the Loggers made off with a handful of hardware.

Knappa had two individual champions in the small schools division (Division 5) and were the only team to leave the meet with two team titles.

The Logger girls racked up 282 points to easily outdistance second-place Portland Lutheran (639) in the Division 5 team standings, while the Knappa boys won with 282 points over runner-up Regis (357).

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Astoria's Ryan McMullen splashes his way through the water hole on one of the courses during Saturday's Three-Course Challenge at Camp Rilea.The Three-Course Challenge - which is divided into three separate races with different courses - now has five divisions to accommodate school sizes.

And that's one thing that brought the Loggers back, said Knappa coach Gary Jacobson.

"What they finally did was a make a division for smaller schools, for 300 and less (students)," Jacobson said. "The kids were getting kind of tired of coming and competing, and not really having a chance at any individual medals or team trophies - something they could take home besides a good workout.

"We're competing up a little, just to keep them on edge and keep them challenged before districts," he said. "We were just looking for effort and competitiveness today, and the kids really competed."

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Knappa's Tonya Olds was the fourth-place finisher overall on the difficult course.In addition to the two team trophies, Knappa's Tonya Olds was the Division 5 first-place finisher on the difficult course, taking fourth overall behind two Division 3 and one Division 1 runner. Teammate Tracie Nygaard was the first Division 5 runner on the moderate course.

"I was a little nervous coming in," Olds said. "This is a big race. I just started how I normally do and I was kind of surprised to be up there. So I just figured, 'heck, just keep the pace.' The hills were tough - now I know why they call it the tough course."

Jacobson said, "Tonya's focusing real well right now.She's set some high standards for herself this year. This race just proved that. I was hoping she'd make the top 30 - fourth was just unbelievable."

Other top seven finishers in their respective races for the Loggers were Blake Gerttula (third), David Pearson (fourth), Toivo Fransen (fifth) and Eliza Heavenrich (fourth) on the easy course; Mike Allen (third) Curtis Olds (fourth) and Ali Gerttula (third) on the moderate course; and Nick Jacobson (sixth), Kevin Maki (seventh) and Rene'e Evans (fifth) on the difficult course.

The Logger boys "are really focused," coach Jacobson said. "They want to win league and then win districts this year.

"They're competitive, and that inter-squad competitiveness is better than any workout you can do," he said. "You want to compete against other schools in a meet, but these kids are going after each other, and they're all buddies afterwards."

Knappa competes Tuesday at the OES Invitational, with a few more big meets later in the season.

"We're competing at Scappoose, at St. Helens, and at Coffenbury Lake next week," Jacobson said, "so hopefully that will keep the kids focused and hungry enough where we'll be focused for districts."

AstoriaThe Astoria boys had some success of their own Saturday.

Competing in Division 3, the Fishermen took third in the team standings behind Molalla and Stayton. Astoria's Tomas Morrissey was the first Division 3 runner to finish the difficult course, taking ninth overall.

Gordon Eckert was 12th overall and took first among Division 3 runners on the easy course, and Ryan Walsh placed 39th overall on the moderate course.

For the Astoria girls, freshman Danielle DeBoer was 37th overall and Kara Geertz was 59th on the easy course.

SeasideThe Seaside girls took fourth in the Division 4 team standings, behind Sisters, La Center (Wash.) and Marist.

Running the difficult course for the fourth straight year, Seaside's Kilee Johnson placed 28th overall and sixth among Division 4 runners.

The Gulls' Tonya Oyala was 36th overall on the moderate course, Katie Dougherty and Stephanie Hullender placed 25th and 27th, respectively, on the easy course, and Stefan Robinson was 61st on the boys' easy course race.

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