WARRENTON - The annual 3-Course Challenge cross country meet has finally become like a Neil Branson greeting: "Perfect and gettin' better."

The annual event has taken on a life of its own, and brought in more than 1,700 runners this year to the Rilea Armed Forces Training Center.

Schools from all around the Pacific Northwest and a few from California took part, with runners testing themselves against the elements, each other and three different courses (Easy, Moderate an Difficult) on the grounds of Camp Rilea.

Some came away victorious, some came away tired and wet, but all came away with more memories of one of the largest cross country meets on the West Coast.

That is exactly what the meet was intended for, said Branson, the Seaside cross country coach and inventor - along with Gene Gilbertson - of the 3-Course Challenge.

"When I see all these kids having so much fun, I have to smile about it," said Branson, who dedicated this year's Challenge to his wife, Mary Rementeria, who died from cancer Sept. 28 of last year.

"She loved this meet, distance running and the kids," he said.

And there were a lot of kids this year. More than ever, with 78 schools competing.

"This year, the biggest challenge was the problems created by not saying 'no,'" Branson said, referring to all the schools which were last-minute additions.

"By 'challenge,' I don't mean anything negative. It's just a lot of hard work. It's truly a labor of love."

The meet also had the services of nearly 60 volunteers this year, and "we wouldn't have this meet without the absolute, fantastic work of the National Guard," Branson said. "They're over the top. They're very good to us."

This year's Challenge also had its own band, as the "Last Regiment Drum Corps" played before each race and also as runners finished.

Local runners who fared well in the girls' races included Knappa's Gretchen George, who was fourth among Division 5 runners (41st overall) on the girls' Difficult course, while teammate Amanda Nichols was sixth (114th overall).

Other Loggers competing included: Brittany Dugan (sixth, 109th overall on the Moderate course); and Nakita Johnson (seventh, 146th overall on the Easy course).

Seaside's Katie Dougherty took sixth among Division 4 runners (36th overall) on the Easy course, and teammate Cela Sibley was eighth (79th overall).

Maia Donachy of Astoria was 12th (Division 3, 47th overall) on the Moderate course.

Competing in Division 5, Naselle's Erin Saari was seventh (112th overall) and Narci Carlson was ninth (123rd overall) on the Moderate course.

In boys' competition, Seaside's Joe Gardner was second (Division 4, 26th overall) on the Easy course, and teammate Thomas Robinson was sixth (58th overall).

Knappa's Curtis Olds was fourth (Division 5, 49th overall) on the Difficult course; Ryan Isom was eighth (122nd overall) on the Easy course; Blake Gerttula was ninth (81st overall) on the Moderate course; and Brentin Salisbury was 11th (163rd overall) on the Difficult course.

Astoria's Jonnie Dunne was ninth (46th overall) on the Easy course; Drew Gustafson was 10th (46th overall) on the Moderate course.

Ilwaco finishes fourthKELSO, Wash. - The Ilwaco boys cross country team took fourth place in the 17-team Kelso Invitational Saturday.

Led by a 14th place finish (in 16:07) from John Hayes, the Fishermen scored 109 points to finish behind Kelso, Peninsula and Canby. Other placers for Ilwaco included Jordan Williams (18th, 16:20), Dylan Wirkkala (25th, 16:45), Scott Fagerland (26th, 16:46), Shaun Peterson (36th, 17:05) and Mike Huitt (39th, 17:14).

Erin Knick (27th, 20:42) was the top finisher for the Ilwaco girls, who finished ninth.

VolleyballAstoria takes secondAURORA - The Astoria volleyball team tuned up for the Cowapa League season by taking second-place in the 17-team North Marion Tournament, Saturday in Aurora.

The Fishermen went 4-2 in pool play, losing two out of three to Molalla before sweeping Woodburn (25-18, 25-13, 25-7).

Entering bracket play as the No. 5 seed, Astoria swept Central (25-20, 25-18) and defeated Corbett (25-20, 25-27, 15-7).

In the championship contest against Rainier, the Columbians won, 25-22, 25-15.

Laura Ferguson led Astoria with 33 kills and nine aces on the day, while Heather Arnold added 29 kills and 10 aces.

Shyra Merila dished out 96 assists, with 18 ace serves and three blocks.

Astoria opens league play at home Tuesday vs. Rainier.

Warriors second at NestuccaCLOVERDALE - Trista Anderson and Whitney Johnson were named to the tournament all-star team, leading the Warrenton volleyball team to a second-place finish at Nestucca Saturday.

The Warriors won five of six games in pool play, splitting with Monroe (25-20, 15-25) and sweeping the Nestucca junior varsity (25-17, 25-10) and varsity teams (25-21, 25-21).

In the championship final, Monroe defeated Warrenton 25-20, 18-25, 15-13.

The Warriors host Portland Lutheran Tuesday.

Boys SoccerAstoria 1, Wilsonville 0WILSONVILLE - The fourth-ranked Astoria boys soccer team will find itself making another move up the polls this week, following a 1-0 win at No. 2-ranked Wilsonville.

"It was a good, hard-fought, physical game between two extremely good teams," said Astoria coach Jerry Boisvert. "It was very physical, from end-to-end.

"They gave us quite a few free kicks, and we finally converted one."

It came in the 50th minute, when Astoria's Phil Gaffney delivered a free kick into the penalty box, where Jose Cruz put a head on it and got it past the Wilsonville keeper.

"There wasn't a lot of shooting - it was a real defensive struggle," Boisvert said. "I'm glad they gave us so many fouls, because it gave us an opportunity to do what we wanted to do."

Astoria opens league play at Scappoose Friday.

Girls SoccerBlanchet 2, Seaside 2WARRENTON - The Blanchet and Seaside girls soccer teams played to a 2-2 tie Saturday night at the LCYSA Complex.

Abby Frank scored both goals for the Gulls, one unassisted and the other off an assist from Jackie Bermingham.

The Cavaliers scored on a penalty kick and a free kick in the second half.

Seaside takes on Astoria at 6 p.m. Tuesday.

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