HILLSBORO — Hoping to send their entire team to the state meet for the first time in over a decade, the Astoria girls cross country team missed out on their goal by a tie-breaker Thursday afternoon.
Competing in the Cowapa League championships at Rood Bridge Park in Hillsboro, the Lady Fishermen finished in a tie for second in the team standings with Valley Catholic, behind team champion Tillamook.
Only two teams qualify for state out of each league, so the Fishermen and Valiants had to resort to a tie-breaker, with the deciding factor being the highest finish for each team’s sixth runner.
Valley Catholic’s Lauren Wolfe was the sixth runner for the Valiants, finishing 20th overall. Astoria’s sixth runner placed 24th, giving the tie-breaker — and a team trip to state — to Valley Catholic.
The day wasn’t a complete loss for Astoria, which will still send one runner to the state meet, Nov. 3 at Lane Community College.
Sophomore Sophie Long took fifth place to qualify for the trip to Eugene.
Tillamook junior Solace Bergeron was the individual champion, covering the 5,000-meters in 19 minutes, 26 seconds, ahead of Valley Catholic’s Taylor Isaac (20:00).
Tillamook sophomore Sarah Pullen was third (20:01), followed by Valley Catholic freshman Georgie Hicken (20:23) and Long (20:30).
Astoria freshman Lindsay Riutta was seventh (21:16), with teammates Allyson Pritchard (11th, 22:19), Abigail Groncki (13th, 23:37) and Taylor Palmrose (19th, 24:53) rounding out Astoria’s top five.
Fishermen McKenna Long (24th) and Grace Blankenship (25th) were Astoria’s other competing runners. All seven Fishermen runners will return next season.
Elise Seppa (15th, 23:47) and Tara Lair (16th) were Seaside’s top two runners.
Tillamook completed a team sweep by winning the boys’ team title, scoring 26 points, ahead of Valley Catholic (36), Astoria (95), Banks (106) and Seaside (124).
The Cheesemakers had six runners in the top 10, while Valley Catholic junior Nate Hicken won the race in 16:49.
Seaside junior Luis Moreno took eighth in 18:04. Astoria was led by Anton Heinrich (14th, 18:39). Teammates Nikolai Boisvert and William Berezay placed 18th and 19th, respectively.
The day included “rainy trails, down-to-the-wire finishes, wrong turns and top-notch competition,” said Astoria coach Andrew Fick. “We went in knowing that there were some big opportunities for our boys and girls teams to step up, but that both teams were going to have formidable competition.”
In the girls’ race, Bergeron and Pullen led nearly the entire race, with Isaac and Hicken, along with Long and Riutta giving chase.
With less than 200 meters remaining, Pullen took a wrong turn, allowing Isaac to move into second.
“We knew it was going to be especially close with Valley Catholic’s girls, probably within a point or two one way or another, and sure enough, that’s how it played out,” Fick said. “We talked about getting out fast, being mindful of who we had around us, and just run our best races, but some things were out of our control.”
Pullen’s wrong turn was “certainly not something that you want for anyone, especially at the district meet,” he said. “It’s unfortunate that was ultimately a factor in the outcome for us and unfortunate that the course wasn’t designed to fully prevent those kinds of issues, but that’s how things work out sometimes.”
He added, “I’m proud of our runners and for the hard work they’ve done this season.
“They’ve accomplished a lot as individuals and as a team, and as the season wraps up for most of our runners, it’s pretty impressive how far they’ve come and what they were able to do working together.”
The Fishermen are “excited for Sophie going to state next week, and to keep up the positive momentum as a team as we look forward to next season.”