Men's Cross Country reloaded with local talent

09/30/2013 21:47

Led by NWAACC champion Elias Gedyon, last year’s mens cross country team dominated the Southern Region on the way to placing second at the NWAACC championships, their best finish since 2006.

The only returning runner from last year’s group is sophomore Javier Velasco, who finished seventh at the Southern Region Championships, but spent the entire summer recovering from a calf injury and may not be able to compete until late in the season.

“We’re hoping to get Javi back. He’s been doing a lot of pool and bike time right now; so he may be doing that for the next month before we’re ready to race him. We’re hoping to work him in but if not we can also redshirt him,” said Mike Blackmore, head coach.

To top last year’s success, the Titans must rely on an entirely different group of athletes and a much more team-oriented strategy.

“We don’t have a superstar like Elias this year,” Blackmore said. “But I think we honestly have four guys who are better than our number two guy from last year, so we’re really solid up front.”

The Titans are lead by a talented group of freshmen who have dominated the Oregon high school track and cross country scene for the past several seasons.

“What’s different from last year is that we have four guys that on any given day, whoever is on, could be the first guy across the finish line,” Blackmore said. “When you have four guys who are all running within ten seconds of each other, some good things can happen that way.”

Eduardo Juarez of Hermiston ran the fourth fastest high school 5k time in the state of Oregon in 2012 and was the Titans top finisher in their first meet of the season. He and Velasco were both part of Hermiston’s 2010 5A cross country champion team.

Matthew Campbell and Hayden Schaffner were both members of Siuslaw’s back-to-back state champion cross country teams in 2011 and 2012. Both were also individual champions at the 4A level. Campbell took home the 2012 cross country title and Schaffner was the 800 meter champion during the 2011 track season.

Twin brothers Jonathan Cornish and David Cornish of North Valley High School finished third and fourth respectively in the 2012 4A cross country championship and led their team to a second place overall finish.

“I think that one of the big keys to our potential success is that all of these guys have been on the podium at the state meet, including some state champions,” Blackmore said. “We’re focusing on this whole team thing and not just individual titles. If that happens that’s great, but our overall goal is to win a team championship.”

Despite Blackmore’s team first approach,  there has been some friendly competition during the Titan workouts thus far.

“Everyone has a different set of skills, as we were all trained differently at the high school level,” says Campbell. “It has been competitive these first couple of weeks, as we all test to see what each of our strengths are.”

Having so much talent in one group is certainly a luxury, but Blackmore is aware that it can also become problematic throughout the season.

“I think the biggest challenge, especially on the guy’s side, is that there’s a lot of talent up front and it’s easy to get carried away in practice and start trying to compete and race with one another and turn your season into a mess at the end,” explained Blackmore.

“I think if we come together as a group, as opposed to working against each other, we’ve got a chance to do some really good things this season.”

By Jarrid Denney //SPORTS EDITOR
The Torch