Summit has won 11 cross-country state championships, all in a row. Now, the Storm girls can call themselves national champions.
Competing under the team name of Central Oregon, Summit dominated the competition Saturday at Nike Cross Nationals, winning with a team score of 120. North Naperville, of Illinois, finished second with 186 points, and Wayzata, of Minnesota, was third with 207.
“Unbelievable,” Summit coach Carol McLatchie said. “You don’t get to recruit the athletes. … We get to develop them. They’re like the dream team.”
All six of the Central Oregon runners made big moves in the last mile of the 5,000-meter race at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland to secure the national title.
“It’s strength, and that’s what our program is about,” McLatchie said. “You want to go out strong and fast in a big meet, but you also want to be passing people after the second mile.”
Fiona Max paced Central Oregon by finishing 11th in 17:29, matching her winning time at the Class 6A state championship a month ago in Eugene.
“It’s a crazy feeling, especially for all the people that came to watch us from our hometown,” Max, a junior, said to the public address announcer after her team hoisted the winning trophy. “They’re all here, and we can hear them on the course. That means so much to us.”
All season, Summit’s focus was running together as a team, she said.
“We can’t always be the greatest team of the day, but we can always be the greatest teammates of the day,” Max said. “That was kind of the key to our consistency, just staying consistent as humans. And I’m honestly kind of speechless.”
Teams and individuals qualified at eight regional meets for the Nike Cross Nationals, which included a field of 204 runners.
Katelyn Tuohy, an individual qualifier from Thiells, New York, won the race in 16:37, breaking her course record from last year. Kelsey Chmiel, of Team Kinetic from New York, was second in 16:54. Taylor Ewert, an individual qualifier representing the Midwest region, finished third in 17:06.
For Central Oregon, freshman Teaghan Knox finished 42nd in 18:00, junior Kelsey Gripekoven was 67th in 18:18, junior Isabel Max took 77th in 18:29, junior Azza Borovicka-Swanson was 96th in 18:42, and junior Stella Skovborg finished 134th in 19:10.
“I think a big thing is packing, and being together as a team,” Borovicka-Swanson told the PA announcer after the race. “We’re not out here running individually; we’re out here running together as a family, which makes our team a lot stronger. It’s really helpful to just be all here together, running together.”
Summit was ranked second in the nation in the latest rankings by www.milesplit.com coming into the race. North Naperville was ranked No. 1.
Summit won the Nike Cross Northwest Regional Championships in Eagle, Idaho, on Nov. 10, to earn a spot in the Nike Cross Nationals.
“As the season went on, they all got faster, and their times were closer together, and that’s how you win team races,” McLatchie said. “We just trained harder, and that’s the difference. They (the Summit girls) made a commitment a couple of weeks ago that they would not go anywhere during Thanksgiving and miss any training.”
That sacrifice paid off Saturday — in a national championship.