Lady Trojans recover after fall to place 15th; boys end up 18th in Division I

By: Matt Long Telegraph Sports Editor
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All was going well for Oak Ridge High’s varsity girls as they fought to gain and keep their position early on in Saturday’s state cross country championships held at Woodward Park in Fresno. Then, suddenly, five of Oak Ridge’s seven runners were on the ground. Oak Ridge’s top runner, freshman Ellie Velez, went down first and four of her teammates, fellow freshmen Maddie DeZordo and Sabrina Andrus, sophomore Rachel Peterson and senior Maxine Goyette, also bit the dust. The starter’s gun then fired and then a re-start was declared. “All the runners just came together and there was pushing and I just got tripped up,” Velez said. “Since I was the lead runner, I went down first and I took out my teammates, which landed on top of me. I got kneed in the back of the head so it took a lot for me to get back focused and ready to go.” Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley didn’t see what happened, but when he heard the restart gun go off, he turned and saw his runners on the ground. “Ellie was pretty dazed,” Fairley said. “All she could do was walk it off because there’s not much down time because they have to stick to their schedule. She had to recover as quickly as possible.” Despite the fact that she fell in her first state meet, Velez rebounded quite nicely. She got off to a good start the second time around and finished the race in 42nd place in 19 minutes, 14 seconds. “I had a headache and I was mad about falling, but I used that energy to get me going a second time,” Velez said. “I thought I had a good race. I think I went out a little too fast, though, because I fell back the last mile and a half.” Peterson was Oak Ridge’s second runner to cross the finish line, placing 60th in 19:31. Senior Holli Arrieta had a great run in her final race, finishing in 19:53 in 79th place. Freshmen Andrus and DeZordo also ran well, placing 106th and 109th in 20:26 and 20:28, respectively. Senior Maxine Goyette ran 111th in 20:33 and Taylor Ashby placed 151st in 24:23. Oak Ridge placed 15th out of 22 teams. “I thought the girls did very well considering everything that’s happened this year,” Fairley said. “Not having our No. 1 runner, Reaghan Emrick, hurts in a big meet like this, but the girls made a nice comeback following the restart. It was quite an experience for a young team and I was proud of them.” The Oak Ridge boys’ team placed 18th out of 22 teams. It wasn’t the finish they were hoping for, but Fairley said they ran a fine race. Junior Dusty Armstrong had a good run for the Trojans, placing 56th in 16:21. Sean McHone, the team’s only senior, placed 77th in 16:37. Junior Evan Baxter finished in 16:48 and in 100th place. Sophomore Ryan Prestegard was four seconds and four places behind Baxter, while juniors Marcos Conde (116th, 17:06), Jake Zeltner (125th, 17:13) and Zach Thornton (135th, 17:19) rounded out the team. The Trojans had a 45-second spread between their first and fifth runners. “The boys weren’t thrilled after the race, but my evaluation of both teams was that they peaked at the section meet and being so young that’s what we were training them to do because there was no guarantee that we were going to make it to state,” Fairley said. “It’s hard to maintain that peak for two more weeks, or even five weeks if you take into consideration the league championships, a race we ran hard in since we lost to Pleasant Grove the first time. “We had the race of the season at sections and we just couldn’t maintain that peak for two more weeks at the state meet,” Fairley continued. “Our boys also run better on a hilly course and the state meet course is pretty flat.” After completing the state race, the boys went on a longer-than-normal cool down run with Fairley and assistant coach John Mansoor, during which the coaches had a long talk with the team. “We just told the kids that it was a solid effort and we wanted to get them motivated for next year,” Fairley said. “It’s a great group to work with and it was a fun and successful season and everyone looks to improve for next season.”