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Oak Ridge cross country team hopes to shine at section race

By: Matt Long, Sports Editor
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The Oak Ridge varsity girls won the Division I sub-section cross country championships at Angels Camp on Saturday, while the boys placed sixth.

Both teams advance to Saturday’s Sac-Joaquin Section finals at Willow Hills in Folsom, where the Trojans would be disappointed if they don’t qualify for the state meet. The top-three girls’ teams advance to the state meet, while only the top two boys’ teams will make it. Both teams have a good chance, but it’s obviously easier for the girls in that a third-place finish would be good enough. The boys don’t have that luxury.

The girls are coming off a solid performance on Saturday, considering five of the seven runners were not running at 100 percent. The girls scored 84 points, finishing well in front of runner-up St. Francis, who scored 123 points.

Rachel Peterson led the way for the Oak Ridge girls, placing eighth in 19 minutes, 52 seconds. Ellie Velez, Briana Dulgar and Samantha Kilcollins all earned top-20 finishes. Velez ran 12th in 20:11, while Dulgar finished two spots and three seconds behind. Kilcollins placed 19th in 20:28.

Whitney Wilhelmy was the team’s final scorer, as she placed 32nd in 20:37.

“I’m pleased with the performance the girls put together,” Oak Ridge coach Rob Fairley said. “Five of the girls were sick and they showed what they were made of by running well. I was proud of their effort. I think their performance should give them some encouragement for the section race. They just need to get healthier this week.”

Fairley said Kilcollins, one of the girls who wasn’t sick, had a strong race.

St. Francis and Davis are the likely favorites to win the section race, according to Fairley, while Woodcreek figures to give Oak Ridge a big fight for the third slot.

“The girls have to be excited and encouraged,” Fairley said. “I think they have a great shot.”

The varsity boys ran as a pack with Evan Baxter getting to the finish line in 17:34 and in 24th place. Teammates Marcos Conde and Jordan Hordesky finished in 17:36 in 26th and 27th, while Jake Zeltner and Dusty Armstrong finished one second later in 28th and 29th, respectively.

The Trojans placed sixth as a team behind Lincoln of Stockton, Woodcreek, Modesto, Pleasant Grove and Sheldon.

“The boys will need another outstanding day like they had last year and they’re capable of it,” Fairley said. “There are six teams with a good shot to make it with Lincoln of Stockton, Davis, Woodcreek, Modesto and Pleasant Grove. The boys should have the confidence of running at Willow Hills and their experience last year on their side. Last year was a magical performance when six of the seven ran their fastest time on the course. If they do that again this year, they’ll definitely make it. They’re feeling good right now.”

The sophomore boys won the Division I race, scoring 55 points, well in front of runner-up Armijo, who scored 97. Scoring for the team included Alex Merry (6th, 11:37), Chad Vardas (10th, 12:01), Patrick Irwin (11th, 12:03), Jason Phen (13th, 12:06) and Kyle Kauffman (15th, 12:08).

The freshman-sophomore girls placed third behind the running of Mikhayla Polivka (13th, 13:39), Lauren Martinez (19th, 14:13), Karina Kauffman (25th, 14:31), Peyton Wright (27th, 14:43) and Arial Hendrickson (33rd, 14:55).

Individual qualifiers to the section meet include JV boys Pablo Guiot Vial (19th, 17:53) and Colin Pilcher (21st, 17:57), sophomore boy Chris Buckley (41st, 12:54), freshmen boys Sebastian Gardey (15th, 12:46), Tanner Martin (19th, 13:00) and Blake Fabian (21st, 13:01) and JV girl Mia Brower (34th, 23:52).