MOUNT BACHELOR — Will Lange and Mario Cacciola are Summit teammates but had been battling each other for the top spot in races all season long.
On Friday, Lange outpaced Cacciola to win the boys 5.5-kilometer skate race at the Oregon Interscholastic Ski Racing Association nordic state championship at Mt. Bachelor Nordic Center.
Summit racers accounted for the top four spots and the Storm are in a solid position to claim the boys team title on Saturday, when the individual classic race and the relay are contested.
Summit leads the team standings with six points, followed by Bend High (26) and Hood River Valley (33) in the nine-team state championship.
Lange finished in 13 minutes, 47 seconds, just three seconds ahead of Cacciola, as snow began to fall steadily Friday afternoon and the temperature dipped into the teens. The Storm’s Jack Conde took third in 13:52.
Lange — who won the overall individual title last season — led from start to finish after taking the lead on the first uphill stretch.
“That was the plan,” Lange said while quickly putting warm clothes over his race attire at the finish line. “I couldn’t let them (teammates behind him) draft on me in the downhill, so I just decided to go for it. They put in an awesome effort right at the bottom of the downhill and I got scared. But from then on I was able to hold them off.”
Cacciola said he was a little tight out of the gate, adding that he just tried to push the whole time and not relax at all.
“It was a battle, but I’m happy with it,” Cacciola said. “It makes it a little hard to breathe when it’s so cold. But the snow wasn’t too bad.”
In the girls 5.5K skate race, Sarah Kilroy of Redmond Proficiency Academy passed Ann McColgan of Bend High about half a kilometer from the finish line to take the state title.
Kilroy finished in 14:30, McColgan in 14:46. Liv Downing of Summit was third in 15:28.
Bend and Summit are tied atop the team standings with 16 points each, setting up a team battle that will likely come down to Saturday’s relay race. RPA is in third place with 19 points.
McColgan started off in the lead and Kilroy drafted behind her for much of the race before making her move.
“She had a pretty good pace going,” Kilroy said of McColgan. “We had a pretty good tempo. She kicked it into gear and made me work hard. It was a very hard day. I’m super happy with it. This was my goal. Now I just have to try to recover and try to do the same thing (Saturday).”
Kilroy and McColgan both race for the Mt. Bachelor Sports Education Foundation so are accustomed to pushing each other in races. McColgan recently returned from Estonia, where she competed in the U18 Nordic Nations Cup, taking 12th in the 5K skate.
But Kilroy — who won the OISRA classic title last season — used some drafting technique to get the best of McColgan on Friday.
“She just had a little something extra that I didn’t,” McColgan said. “I tried to hang with her but I really felt my legs start to go, and she just left me speechless for sure. She had quite the kick. She drafted me the whole way, which was good strategizing on her part. I probably should have let her take the lead at some point, but it was an awesome race. She always pushes me to work hard and be my best skier.”
McColgan hopes to help bring the Lava Bears a team title Saturday as they will go head-to-head with Summit in the individual classic race and the relay.
“The relay will be the fun one,” McColgan said. “I think we do have a shot. We’ve been going back and forth with Summit this year and it’s been down to lunges. We’re just gonna have to battle it out and see who comes out on top.”
Bend coach Libby Hayden was all smiles Friday as she reflected on the girls skate race.
“I’m thrilled with our kids,” Hayden said. “We had some people that had a few upsets and made some amazing moves. Alice McKnight and Lillian McNabb moved up a few places today.”
Summit coach Gene Hyde was also smiling as he talked about the close girls team race between Summit and Bend, and he noted the potential for powdery trails for Saturday’s events. The National Weather Service was forecasting 4 to 8 inches of snow for Friday night and 4 to 8 inches more on Saturday.
“The girls side is so close, it’ll most likely come down to the relay,” Hyde said. “And the snow conditions will make a big difference here. We’ll see who handles that the best, with different waxes and techniques.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,