EUGENE — From the start of the season, Madeline Nason’s goal was always to break the 18-minute barrier.
On Saturday, the Corvallis sophomore accomplished that and much more. Nason became the first Corvallis runner to ever win an individual state cross country title, and led the Spartans to their first ever team title.
Nason covered the Lane Community College 5,000-meter course in 17 minutes, 51.60 seconds — nearly 21 seconds better than her previous personal-best. Her time was the fastest by a 5A runner this year and the 14th-fastest in the state of Oregon.
“It’s really exciting,” Nason said. “I’m really glad my teammates could also be up on that podium with me. Even the ones who weren't up there ran an awesome race today.”
In order to win, Nason had to outrun North Salem senior Abigail Swain, who bested her at the Mid-Willamette Conference title meet last week. Nason sat with Swain, Wilsonville’s Samantha Prusse and Crater’s Preseley Robinson in the lead pack for two and a half miles before she made a snap decision to separate from the other runners.
“My goal was to run fast,” Nason said. “I knew that I needed to pick it up at the end. I felt that I was capable of doing that and maintaining that for the rest of the race.”
Nason finished well ahead of Prusse, who placed second in 18:05.70. After she crossed the finish line, Nason’s attention immediately turned to the rest of her Corvallis teammates; the Spartans team victory was far from a sure thing at that point.
Corvallis had entered the meet as one of the favorites to take home the title, but the form charts predicted it could be a close finish, and it turned out to be just that. The Spartans finished with 67 points, four better than runner-up Hood River Valley and just seven better than fourth-place North Salem.
The Spartans won in large part because after Nason crossed the finish line, they placed three more runners in the top-15, all of whom were freshman. Ava Betts took eighth in 18:35.50, Avery Nason finished 10th in 18:48.90 and Ronja Soares placed 14th in 19:00.50.
“Most of us were on the same middle school team,” Avery Nason said of Corvallis’s freshman core. “We’ve run together a lot before.”
Sophomore Vivienne McFarland Price rounded out the scoring with a 37th-place finish, while Olivia Dever and Kaia Anspacher took 41st and 55th respectively.
“It’s just crazy,” Betts said. “We never imagined this at the beginning of the season. We didn’t even think about it until the weeks leading up to districts and then it started to get more serious.”
Crescent Valley finished sixth in the team standings. Raiders junior Sunitha Black kicked her way to seventh place in 18:32.30 for a podium finish, and senior Sophie Fisher took 18th in 19:18.50. West Albany senior Annie Berry finished 25th 19:38.90 to lead the Bulldogs to an 11th-place finish.
In the boys 5A race, Crescent Valley finished third with 108 points. Sophomore Blake Byer capped off a breakout year with a sixth-place finish in 15:38.60.
Byer, who finished 34th at last year’s state meet, survived a historically quick pace and hung on after he lost contact with the race leaders. Ashland senior Evan Holland won the race 14:30.40, the fastest time ever run on the state meet course and the seventh-fastest time of any high school runner in the U.S. this year.
“I went through the first mile at 4:49, which is probably my fastest mile split in a race ever,” Byer said. “It was pretty crazy. It was hard from the beginning and they just picked it up. I was just trying to give it all in the last 300 meters, just push it and hold my place.”
Logan Pawlowski took 13th in 16:08.70 for the Raiders, and Cade Byer placed 14th in 16:13.10.
Corvallis finished 10th as a team with 226 points and were led by a 34th-place finish by Raymond Ingersoll in a time of 16:42.70.
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