The Summit girls enter September as the No. 1 cross country team in the U.S., and for good reason. All seven members of last year’s Nike Cross Nationals championship team are back in the fold and aiming at a second national title.
On Saturday at the Spartan Invitational at Marist in Eugene, three members of last year’s championship team are set to run – sophomore Teaghan Knox, senior Stella Skovborg and junior Jasper Fievet. Other members of the team, including 6A individual champion Fiona Max, are likely to compete at the Northwest Classic on Sept. 14 at Lane Community College.
The team comes into the season intent to improve and show that it can perform even better than 2018.
“It’s definitely re-focused us a little bit,” said Isabel Max, a senior and Fiona’s twin. “I think we have more intention with every workout we do, but as far as where our heads are, we’re just trying to stay in the same place we were last year.”
Last year at the time, the discussion around Summit was its move to 6A after more than a decade of domination at the 5A level. The Storm entered 2018 as a Top 10 team nationally, but nobody had a clear idea how the season would play out.
Summit weathered the late-season stoke of coach Jim McLatchey, won the 6A title, and then blitzed the fields at Nike Cross Northwest and then the national championship assembly at Glendoveer Golf Course in Portland. Summit, which competed at nationals as Central Oregon Track Club, was the first team from the West coast to win the girls team title. Fayetteville-Manlius of New York had won 11 of the previous 12 years.
McLatchey is back to full strength. His wife Carol, the head coach, served as the U.S. women’s distance coach at the Pan American Games in Peru this summer.
The two of them bring decades of coaching expertise to a program that is bursting with talent, especially on the girls side.
Summit’s runners, especially the seniors, are savoring each day with their coaches and one another.
“Our time in high school is precious,” Fiona Max said. “This season feels like another invitation to a great opportunity. Honestly, it’s just really important to keep perspective. If we were that underdog story that came up (last year), who knows who else might come up now.”
Summit’s depth includes returners Azza Borovicka Swanson and Kelsey Gripekoven, and also new freshman Barrett Justema, among others.
“Sometimes when I’m with my teammates, we’ll talk about how excited we are to get another shot at NXN and try to defend our title,” Skovborg said. “The first step obviously is districts, and then state, all those things you have to work up to (on the way) to nationals.”
Being No. 1 comes with a little bit of pressure, but Borovicka Swanson said it won't suffocate the group.
"Obviously we’d like to end our season with another national title, but we aren’t putting an excruciating amount of pressure on it, like it’s going to be detrimental to our
Doug Binder is the editor of DyeStat.com