Ella Zilli, Astoria runner

Astoria’s Ella Zilli placed fourth out of 38 runners in last week’s Ultimook Invitational cross country meet.

The Astoria, Knappa and Warrenton cross-country teams returned to action Saturday at the scaled-down Ultimook Invitational in Tillamook.

Due to the seasonal differences, the course at Hydrangea Ranch did not feature its signature river crossings and mud pit, though there was still plenty of mud to go around.

The atmosphere was also more subdued as the number of teams was limited, COVID-19 precautions remained in place and spectators were also restricted due to Tillamook County recently moving to the “moderate” risk level for the state’s coronavirus restrictions.

Ella Zilli was Astoria’s top finisher in the girls’ 4A race, taking fourth out of 38 runners in 21 minutes, 45 seconds.

“I felt pretty good, started to get tired in the middle mile, but overall I’m happy with my performance and I am so glad to be back,” Zilli said of her race, adding, “running with a mask is definitely more difficult than I anticipated.”

The Astoria girls took third, finishing behind Tillamook and Philomath in the team standings. Sophie Long, Hannah Daniels, Allyson Pritchard and Kaylee Perdue rounded out the scoring five for Astoria.

Tillamook’s Sarah Pullen, who has signed to run for George Fox University next fall, took first in 20:03.

For the Astoria boys, John Clement was the top finisher for Astoria, 11th overall in 18:53. The Fishermen placed fourth in team standings behind Philomath, Tillamook and Newport.

Tillamook’s Marshall Bush, who will run at Gonzaga University, won in 16:13. Jack Colquhoun, Tommy Laman, Stephen Ero and Daniel Messing completed Astoria’s top five.

“It was really good to have so many of our runners back racing again today,” said Astoria coach Andrew Fick. “Things are definitely different, and there are some new challenges like racing in masks to work through, but I am really proud of our team and the strong effort everyone put in today. Everyone made the most of it and I saw a lot of positivity and growth coming out of how we approached running today.

“It’s been a long time off from organized, in-person races for most of us, so stepping up and pushing ourselves like we did today was pretty inspirational. It’s also great to see everyone cheering on teammates and even runners from other teams. Being back in that cross-country meet environment is pretty special. We have a lot to feel good about and I think we will continue to improve in big ways as we move forward in our season.”

Astoria competes Friday, hosting Warrenton, Seaside, Tillamook and Jewell for the North Coast 3K at Astoria Middle School.

Warriors win 1A-3A boys race

Warrenton took the team title in the 1A, 2A, 3A boys’ race at the Ultimook Invite, topping three other schools.

Knappa sophomore Isaiah Rodriguez took second (17:15) behind Brandon Williams of East Linn Christian (17:02), while Warrenton’s Forrest Cooley (fourth, 18:20), Zander Moha (sixth, 18:36) and freshman Indy Freyer (eighth, 19:04) all finished in the top 10.

Knappa sophomore Clay Keyser was 10th, followed by Warrenton’s Doc Freyer.

On the girls’ side, Warrenton’s Abigail Miller was sixth (24:02), and Emily Larsen of Knappa (25:09) was eighth. Blanchet Catholic and Taft were the only complete teams.