EUGENE — The bracelets they wore read “as one.”
And once again, the Summit girls cross-country team — as one — won a state championship Saturday at Lane Community College.
The 11th consecutive state title for the Storm was perhaps the sweetest yet because it came at the Class 6A level, leaving no doubt as to who really is the best in the state.
Fiona Max led Summit, claiming the individual title in 17 minutes, 29 seconds, as three Storm runners finished in the top 10 in front of a sprawling crowd on a cloudy, mild day.
Summit posted a team score of 39 points, Jesuit was second with 68, and Lincoln finished third with 147.
“This season has been such a journey with my team,” Max said. “They’re the most caring, thoughtful, joint group I’ve ever been a part of. It’s amazing to take that title with them, knowing that our whole team has put our blood, sweat and tears into it.”
Summit’s move from 5A to 6A this season pitted the 10-time 5A champion against Jesuit, a longtime powerhouse in cross-country and the two-time defending 6A champ entering Saturday’s meet. Max ran up the final hill and away from second-place Makenna Schumacher, of Jesuit, who finished 14 seconds behind.
It was a dramatic statement by Max and the other Summit runners.
“Jesuit’s really good at raising the intensity,” Max said. “We knew they would bring their best. We knew we had to come prepared. We love racing against them, because we know that they bring the best out of us and we bring the best out of them.”
Summit’s Teaghan Knox finished fifth in 18:01, and Isabel Max, Fiona’s twin sister, took eighth in 18:13.
The Storm runners were all smiles as they relaxed in a small tent just off the finish line near the LCC track after finishing the race. They had to wait nearly an hour before it was announced that they had won the team title, but they all seemed to know before it was made official.
“It’s really nice coming up to this class and proving that we belong here, and that we’re here to stay,” said Fiona Max, a junior.
Isabel Max said that knowing her sister was out front alone gave her a boost.
“When I hit the track and I heard her name being called out that was so exciting, and that definitely helped me push to the finish,” Isabel said.
Summit’s Kelsey Gripekoven finished 11th (18:16) and Azza Borovicka Swanson took 14th (18:27) for the Storm.
Mountain View finished 17th as a team, led by Kelsey Swenson, who placed 19th in 18:33.
Fiona Max said she was nervous going up against runners like Schumacher and Lincoln’s Kyla Becker, who finished third.
The three runners were in a tight pack before Max broke away up a small but steep hill with about 1,300 meters left.
“I knew I’d be running up against some nationally ranked and extremely smart runners,” Max said. “I always kind of see myself as the rookie. But then the race went off and I told myself, just stick in behind the smart runners, and hang on.”
Knox, a freshman, called Fiona Max “an amazing runner.”
“It’s pretty cool to see her way out in front cruising up the track,” Knox said. “It’s an amazing team this year. This is my first year out here and it’s a pretty big deal to be a part of.”
After years of her team being compared with Jesuit, Summit coach Carol McClatchie called the 6A state title “very thrilling and very satisfying.”
“It’s hard for seven girls to pull off seven good races, because they get rather nervous at times, but they did,” McClatchie said.
In the Class 4A girls state championship race earlier Saturday, Sisters finished on the podium in fourth place with 141 points, just edging out fifth-place La Grande. Marist won with 70 points, followed by Siuslaw with 73 and Tillamook with 77.
“I’m beyond thrilled,” said Sisters coach Josh Nordell. “They just kept grinding this year and they never stopped. I’ve never seen a team improve so much in a year.”
Kate Bowen led Sisters, finishing seventh in 19:16. Ella Cole was 23rd in 20:35 for the Outlaws.
“Kate ran a really smart race,” Nordell said. “She ran strong and really stepped up on a championship day.”
— Reporter: 541-383-0318,