Summit domination

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By: Grant Lucas
The Bulletin

EUGENE — It was not enough for Hannah Gindlesperger and Matthew Maton to run away with individual girls and boys titles. It was not enough for them to lead Summit High to girls and boys Class 5A state championships. They wanted even more. And they had lofty goals in their sights.

Only two girls in the history of the Oregon cross-country state meet had broken the 18-minute barrier on a 5,000-meter course. On Saturday afternoon at Lane Community College, Gindlesperger became the third, but not without an obstacle.

As Gindlesperger hit the track at LCC for the final 400 meters of the race, a torrent of rain pummeled the sophomore. She said it caught her by surprise, but it would not keep her from logging a time of 17 minutes, 53 seconds to join South Eugene’s Sarah Tsai (who accomplished the feat in 2012) and Jesuit’s Melissa Lucas (1993) as the only girls to finish below 18 minutes at the Oregon state meet.

“I tried to go fast at the beginning, but it’s hard when no one is out there with you,” said Gindlesperger, who had built a 20-second lead just over a mile into the race. “I didn’t think I was capable of doing it as of last year (when she was third in 19:09), so it was a surprise.”

Only four boys had broken the 15-minute barrier on a 5,000-meter course at the Oregon state meet, including 2012 Olympic silver medalist Galen Rupp, who did it twice running for Portland’s Central Catholic High. On Saturday afternoon, Maton became the fifth, though not without some drama.

The junior strode onto the track all alone, a 23-second cushion separating him from the rest of the field. As he kicked through the tape at the finish, the race announcer gave an unofficial time — “15 minutes” — eliciting a collective groan from the crowd.

That time, however, was unofficial. Maton in fact achieved his goal, taking the state title in 14:59.

“It gives me hope for the future, I guess,” Maton said of being mentioned in the same breath as Rupp. “Just all the hours in the cold, training, it makes it worth something.”

Gindlesperger’s performance — along with that of Summit freshman Olivia Brooks, who took second in 18:37 — propelled the Storm girls to 33 points and their sixth straight state championship, tying Bend High for the second-most consecutive cross-country state titles in Oregon history.

“Just watching these gals come together all season long, they’re focused and they were focused on this,” said Carol McLatchie, in her second year as Summit’s head coach. “It’s kind of like running around with a bunch of professional runners, in a way.”

Kaely Gordon joined her teammates in the top five by taking fourth overall for Summit. Piper McDonald was 11th, and the Storm edged second-place Mountain View, which finished with 81 points. It was the best finish for the Cougars since finishing as the runners-up to Summit in 2010.

“They just competed beautifully, and they ran exactly the way we asked them to run,” said Mountain View coach Don Stearns, who described his girls’ performances as “phenomenal.”

He added: “It feels like a championship because they ran their best today.”

After missing 3 1/2 weeks due to injury, senior Rylie Nikolaus returned to pace the Cougars with a 15th-place finish.

“I wish I hadn’t been out because I feel like I could have done way better,” Nikolaus said. “It feels really good. I was scared the whole season that I wasn’t going to make it to state, but now that I’m here, it went so well.”

Madison Leapaldt took 17th for Mountain View, and Tia Hatton was 19th.

In the boys race, Maton and Tyler Jones, who logged his best finish at state by taking sixth, guided Summit to 38 points and its third straight state team title. Alex Martin, Matthew Sjogren and Chris Merlos went 12-13-14 for the Storm, whose runners benefited from the standout performance of Maton.

“It kind of motivates us to try and stay up with him,” Jones said. “He’s just extremely good, above everybody. It kind of pushes us to strive to be just as good and make our team unstoppable.”

Mirroring the final girls standings, the Mountain View boys, with 64 points, took second — the Cougars’ highest finish since winning the 4A state championship in 1995.

“Last night, our boys and girls teams, in our meeting, we visualized a race where we would go out conservative and run the second half of the race faster and pass people the whole way,” Stearns said. “We’d run as teams, the whole way, with teammates. And that’s exactly what they did, both the boys and girls. It was just as we scripted it.

“Bend is the center of cross-country in Oregon,” he added, “and I was glad our kids could be a part of that. They certainly held up their end of the deal.”

Mountain View’s Sam King, Dakota Thornton and Gabe Wyllie rounded out the top 10 with 8-9-10 finishes. It was a huge improvement for King, who was 41st at state as a junior last year.

Caleb Hoffmann, Bend High’s lone representative at the meet, made his mark at his first state championships. The sophomore took third overall, finishing in 15:54.

Last year, Hannah Gindlesperger could not have predicted her performance on this Saturday afternoon. She missed the state meet’s best mark of 17:34.9, set in 1993, but as a sophomore, she could have two more chances to reset that record. Meanwhile, Matthew Maton’s “best cross-country season ever,” according to the boys winner, earned an exclamation point, as the junior earned his first state title.

“It was definitely worth the wait,” said Maton, who finished runner-up to state champion and teammate Travis Neuman at state last year. “You appreciate it more when you get older, I think, than just getting it as a sophomore.”

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