Cold temps, competition tough on Trojans

By: Matt Long
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As if the competition wasn’t tough enough, Mother Nature proved to be another formidable opponent for the Oak Ridge boys’ team at the state cross country championships on Saturday and Fresno. The boys, starting an hour and 40 minutes after the girls, ran in a steady rain and with temperatures in the 40s, it made for a cold race. While the team ran well, the ultra-competitive state meet pushed the Trojans back to a disappointing 17-place finish. “We didn’t place very high, but the boys ran faster than we’ve ever run at the state meet,” Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley said. “The boys beat the 2006 team’s time by 22 seconds and that’s an accomplishment, but they weren’t happy with where they finished. It was a very competitive meet with five boys running under 15 minutes and that’s a big year.” Senior Benji Xie led the team as their No. 1 runner, placing 49th in 15 minutes 57 seconds. Despite a personal-best time on the course, Xie ran about 30 seconds slower than he had hoped and the cold temperatures had a lot to do with it. “I’ve seen better days,” Xie said. “I was ready to run, but I was suffering from hypothermia during the race because I was wet and cold. I was dizzy and could barely see at the end of the race. The cold just locked me up and I couldn’t get into a rhythm and that’s why I didn’t do as well as I would have liked.” Sophomore Brandon Williams ran well in his first state meet, placing 74th in 16:19, just in front of senior teammates Clay McNamee and Jeroen Keukenkamp, who both finished in 16:23 in 77th and 78th place, respectively. “Brandon ran a very good race,” Fairley said. “He got caught in the pack early on, but he kept his focus and kept moving up and caught a lot of runners in the last quarter mile. I’d venture to guess his time was the school’s fastest ever by a sophomore.” Oak Ridge’s fifth runner, sophomore Marcos Conde, turned in a superb performance, finishing in 17:02 in 120th place. Fairley said it might be Conde’s first time finishing in the top-five in a varsity race. “It is one of Marcos’ better performances,” Fairley said. “He moved up in the last mile and passed a lot of runners and you could see it on his face when he finished. That was neat for him, as he essentially took Dusty’s spot in the lineup.” Oak Ridge senior Zach Speno placed 129th in 17:10, while sophomore Dusty Armstrong ran 147th in 17:57. “Dusty obviously hadn’t recovered from his illness that he came down with right before sections,” Fairley said. “He had trouble breathing and it was just a tough race for him.” Xie was disappointed that the team wasn’t rewarded for running as fast as they did. “We broke the school record by about 20 seconds but even with that we were only 17th,” Xie said. “It’s pretty crazy how competitive it was, but it was a privilege to be apart of it. It was sort of a bittersweet end to the season for us.”